Research projects

The staff and postgraduate students at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University undertake multi-disciplinary applied teaching and research aimed at:

  • gaining a better understanding of the impacts of natural, man-made and environmental disasters on communities
  • improving the way society manages natural, man-made and environmental risk
  • enhancing community preparedness, response and recovery from the consequences of natural, man-made and environmental hazard events.

Current research projects

Completed projects and postgraduate research theses

Reports, research updates and other publications arising from this research can be found at our publications and news pages or by using the keyword search (available above) of Disaster Research.

Joint Centre for Disaster Research Projects

FRST Hazards and Society (In collaboration with GNS Science)

Improving community resilience
This research involves developing a model to assess the factors that make a community withstand the consequences of natural hazards. Some of these factors are psychological, behavioural, and community aspects that positively influence community resilience. We also analyse the role of hazard mitigation in community fulfilment, growth and development.

Emergency management planning
We research the impact of specific natural hazard events and the effectiveness of planning, communicating and training within and between responding organisations.

Hazard education
Research is focussed on community understanding of, and preparedness for, natural hazard events. Results are used to design education strategies to meet the specific needs of communities (through local authorities), businesses, schools and others. Recent studies are directed towards community understanding of natural hazards in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Public response to warning systems
Research is aimed at improving public response to warning systems for tsunami, eruptions, lahars and dam-break floods.

Postgraduate Student Research Projects

Staff and associates of the centre currently contribute to elements of the Graduate Diploma in Emergency Services Management and MA, MPhil and PhDs in Psychology, Emergency Management and other related disciplines.  The list below only relates to Massey University student projects at the PhD level, however there are a number of students from other institutions with links to JCDR.

Alan Kwok
Measuring and mapping disaster resilience in local Communities

Miles Crawford
How Risk Informs Emergency Management: A study of the interface between risk modelling for tsunami inundation and emergency management p&p

Hayley Squance
Animal Welfare Emergency Management

Mina Adhikari
Earthquake induced landslides, landslide prone communities and their adaptive capacities

Sara McBride
Learnings from the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence to design successful public education campaigns

Tom Huggins
Optimising visual solutions for complex strategic scenarios

Jack Lindsay
Maximising participatory planning in emergency management

Karlene Tripler
Emergency management in New Zealand primary schools

Maureen Mooney
Childhood and caregiver post-disaster recovery following Canterbury earthquakes

Prahlad Lamichhane
Risk communication systems for reducing elderly's vulnerabilities to flood

Nancy Brown
Building Disaster Resilience in the Lodging Industry

Marian Tan
Citizen-centred approach in the development of mobile phone applications for disaster management

Syed Yasir Imtiaz
Development of framework of a to understand the types of damage data or impact information in a region

Abida Ellahi
Leveraging Web 2.0 Technologies for Crisis Communication: Enhancing Management Capabilities

Dan Neely
Pre-event recovering planning

Recent Projects

Community Based Public Education Initiatives
This project reviewed a range of community-based public education projects in New Zealand and the USA. The study highlighted the key factors that lead to their success and discussed issues around programme evaluation. (see publication list for reports).

New Zealand Tsunami Warning Preparedness
An in-depth analysis of national and regional arrangements for tsunami warnings for the entire country was conducted. The study included a substantive review of best practice for effective end-to-end warning systems internationally (including effectiveness lessons from Japan). Analysis was compared to a GNS-developed practical model for effective all-hazard warning systems, consistent with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s conceptual model.
Recommendations were included for education methodologies to improve community resilience in tsunami warnings (GNS, MCDEM, NIWA, 2005).

Flood Hazard Awareness and Education Evaluation in Australia
This involved undertaking surveys, analysis and making recommendations on flooding impacts and warnings to evaluate public education of flood hazards (GNS, New South Wales State Emergency Services, Central Queensland University, 2005- 2006).

Social Impact assessment in Istanbul
Seismic retrofitting options for residential apartments in Istanbul were discussed and formulated with residents to gain buy-in and minimise the impacts. This was part of an earthquake engineering project funded by the World Bank (Beca-Prota, GNS Science, Middle East Technical University, Turkey, 2005).

Public Warning Notification and Community Resilience in the Auckland Region
This consisted of two projects: a review of warning notification arrangements giving recommendations for a range of priority options, and research into the indicators of community resilience to natural hazards leading to strategies to motivate improved resilience (GNS, Auckland Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group, Kestrel Group, University of Tasmania, 2005-2006).

Effective Warning Systems and Emergency Response at Mount Ruapehu
This comprised research into all of the components of effective warning systems and emergency response preparedness at Mount Ruapehu’s ski areas, and in response to lahars from Crater Lake (GNS Science, DoC, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, University of Tasmania, other response agencies, 2001-2006).

Recently Awarded Doctorates


Becker, Julia Susan (PhD, Psychology, 2012)

"Increasing household preparedness for earthquakes: Understanding how individuals make meaning of earthquake information and how this relates to preparedness"

One way to reduce the impact of an earthquake is to encourage people to prepare at home. Household preparedness includes gathering together survival items, retrofitting the house, making an emergency plan, or participating in community preparedness activities. Unfortunately, despite earthquake education campaigns advising the importance of household preparedness, only low numbers of people choose to prepare for earthquakes. To find out why this is still the case, Ms Becker investigated the kinds of earthquake information individuals receive, how people interpret that information within their worldly context, and how this relates to actually undertaking preparedness actions. She found that in making decisions about whether or not to prepare for earthquakes, people draw upon a variety of types of information including passive information, interactive information and personal experience. She also found that additional factors such as emotions or social situations have a bearing on people’s decision-making. Future earthquake education campaigns should be developed to incorporate a wider range of information types and account for broader contextual influences.

de Terte, Ian (PhD, Psychology, 2012)

“Psychological resilience in the face of occupational trauma: An evaluation of a multidimensional model”

Mr de Terte’s research investigated a five-part model of psychological resilience in relation to exposure to potentially traumatic events, using a sample of police officers. The five-part model looked at an individual’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours, physical activities, and environment. There has been limited research that has evaluated psychological resilience from a multidimensional viewpoint. This study found that the components of the model that showed some utility were optimism, adaptive coping, adaptive health practices, and social support. The psychological resilience model initially proposed has been reconceptualised as a three-part model, but requires further empirical and theoretical development.

Primary Supervisor: A/Pro Christine Stephens
Associate Supervisor: Prof David Johnston

Saunders, Wendy (PhD, Resourcing and Environmental Planning, 2012)

“Innovative land use planning for natural hazard risk reduction in New Zealand”

Land use planning is a key tool in New Zealand for reducing the risk of natural hazards, however many land use decisions still put people and property at risk. This research contributes to the planning field by providing land use planners with an innovative, risk-based framework that can assist decision making around land use where there is a risk of natural hazards. The risk-based framework presented provides a significantly new approach to natural hazard management, where the consequences of an event are the primary concern, rather than likelihood; and it allows for levels of risk to be defined. The result is a framework that can be adapted to local risks communities may face, and defines ‘acceptable’ levels of risk that allows for risk-based planning to occur. This in turn will reduce the future risks and consequences from natural hazard events.

Taylor, Heather (PhD, Emergency Management, 2012)

"Children's Experiences of Flooding in Surakarta, Indonesia"

Ms. Taylor’s research presents a rich contextual discussion of the social effects of flooding on children in Central Java, Indonesia. The knowledge generated furthers understanding of how the experiences and responses of children in disasters are shaped, and the factors which make children more resilient and less vulnerable to the challenges experienced in disasters. Research in the Indo-Javanese context revealed that in disaster situations where children are involved, the cultural and social contexts and the geographic and circumstantial contexts matter. While these aspects are relevant for both children and adults in disasters, this research, by identifying how children actively participate in their society, identified the unique and important contribution children make to disaster readiness, response and recovery. The findings contribute to understanding how the sustained resilience of the community is enhanced by involving children in disaster risk reduction activities.

Primary Supervisor: Prof David Johnston
Associate Supervisor: Dr Timothy Davies, A/Pro Robin Peace, Prof Stuart Carr


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