Contact Information

Please direct questions to competition coordinators:

Jamie Vickery
Phone: (303) 735-3065

Nnenia Campbell
Phone: (303) 735-3097

Annual Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition

The Natural Hazards Center created the Annual Hazards and Disasters Student Paper Competition for undergraduate and graduate students in 2004 as a way to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of hazards and disaster research.

Papers will be judged on originality, organization, and knowledge of the topic. One undergraduate and one graduate winner each will receive $100, a mention in the Natural Hazards Observer; publication on the Natural Hazards Center Web site, and an invitation to the Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, including registration fees.

2014 Winners

Graduate Winner: Autumn Lotze

Paper Title: Connecting Research and Practice: Business Earthquake Vulnerability in North Vancouver

Abstract: The catastrophic consequences of recent disasters like Hurricane Sandy and the Tohoku Earthquake highlight the necessity of adopting a proactive approach to risk management that emphasizes mitigation and preparedness in order to foster more resilient urban systems. This research focuses on one component of the urban system—the business community—and demonstrates the value of explicitly connecting risk research and practice to facilitate the development of community risk reduction strategies.

Using North Vancouver as a case study, this research examines business earthquake vulnerability by: 1) estimating potential business disruption and economic loss to the business community through the application of an economic loss model that considers simultaneous disruption from building damage, lifeline outage and neighborhood damage, and 2) contextualizing this assessment with data from a survey of local business risk perceptions and preparedness behaviors.

Model results indicate that lifeline loss is a greater source of disruption to businesses than either building damage or neighborhood damage; a complete disruption of lifelines would leave only an estimated 28% of local businesses open and result in a loss of 73% of normal daily economic production. Survey results indicate business respondents are generally unprepared to respond to an earthquake and highlight a lack of knowledge as the most common barrier to increased preparedness.

Ultimately, this study identifies patterns of risk and vulnerability in the North Vancouver business community, examines associations between business risk perceptions and preparedness behavior, and offers ways that subsequent findings can be used to inform public risk management strategies.

Undergraduate Winner: Melanie Gracy

Paper Title: Canada's Love Canal: An Analysis of Social Class, Race, and Gender in Nova Scotia's Steel Industry

Abstract: The topic of environmental contamination, degradation and its impact on human life is frequently omitted from disaster research and disaster classification. Nevertheless, such hazards impact a great number of people around the world, with 1319 Superfund sites currently existing throughout the United States alone (US. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014). This does not include the many other thousands of sites scattered around the world, with the second-most critical North American site located in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. The environmental disaster responsible for contaminating the Sydney site originated with the dominant Nova Scotia steel industry, and one particular steel mill that was the lifeblood of Sydney for generations. Within this disaster, the dimensions of social class, race and gender played significant roles in increasing the risk and vulnerability of certain town residents, due to factors such as historical geographic placement of social groups, a varying sense of concern and urgency displayed by authority figures, and social barriers preventing members of certain groups from participating in decisions and policies affecting their community. Such findings demonstrate the overwhelming need for greater recognition of environmental disasters and degradation within disaster research, classification and response efforts.


The undergraduate and graduate winners* each will receive:

  • A $100 award
  • Publication on the Natural Hazards Center Web site
  • Invitation and free admission to this year's Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop
  • Mention in the Natural Hazards Observer, DR, and other Natural Hazards Center news outlets

*In the case of coauthors, the monetary award will be divided equally. Winners must sign an agreement allowing the Natural Hazards Center to publish and promote the work before claiming the award.