Working Group on Disasters

Nepal earthquake first responders
Turkish rescue workers respond to the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Photo by Hilmi Hacaloğlu. 

The Working Group on Disasters aims to foster greater awareness, collaboration, and research activity among social, physical, and behavioral scientists at Cornell and around the world in the study of international disaster preparedness, recovery, and resilience. 

Whether natural or manmade, disasters always result from the interaction of human and environmental factors, and disaster risk and recovery always have social, cultural, and political dimensions. To improve individual and collective responses and public policy, it is crucially important to enlist the theories, methodologies, and insights of social and behavioral sciences.



Sharon Tennyson (policy analysis and management)

Steering committee

Shorna Allred (natural resources), Ying Hua (design and environmental analysis), Linda Shi (city and regional planning), Richard Stedman (natural resources), Keith Tidball (Cornell Cooperative Extension), John Zinda (development sociology)


News and events

Sharon Tennyson

Sharon Tennyson wins fellowship for disaster work

The fellowship from the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future will allow her to engage with scholars across the university as well as outside groups working on public policy around disaster risk, preparedness, and recovery. 

Roundtable assesses Nepal rebuilding efforts

Jack Elliott (design and environmental analysis) and Kathryn March (anthropology, emerita) led a discussion on Sept. 7, 2018 on their work with communities devastated by the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. 

Roundtable: Effects on Critical Infrastructure

A roundtable on April 12, 2018 featured Thomas O'Rourke of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell. O'Rourke has authored or co-authored more than 360 publications on geotechnical, underground, earthquake engineering, and impact of extreme events on civil infrastructure.

The Social Construction of Disasters

University of Florida anthropologist Anthony Oliver-Smith launched the Working Group on Disasters on March 14, 2018 with a lecture titled “The Social Construction of Disasters: Identifying Root Causes and Risk Drivers.” Read the Cornell Chronicle article about his visit here.