Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis

Colorado State University 
B-258 Clark Building
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1784 

Colorado State Professor Lori Peek Talks Natural Disasters Impact on Children

Video by CTV News Reporter Patrick Enslow

Colorado State University professor and researcher Dr. Lori Peek gave a presentation on Tuesday night about the impact of natural disasters on children and youth.

It is the third installment of the President’s Community Lecture Series that are set to occur twice a semester, covering various topics.

Peek is a natural disaster researcher, focusing on populations that are vulnerable to natural disasters. She noted that she shifted her focus to specifically children and youth, and she attributes this shift to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005.

She discussed the many misconceptions about the way children deal with and respond to disasters, one of them being that they are powerless in the recovery.

“The ‘vulnerable victims myth’ is the idea that children, in the face of disasters, become completely helpless and unable to respond to these extreme events — that they are rendered completely incapacitated and incapable of contributing in meaningful ways,” Peek said.

With what appeared to be tears welling in her eyes, Peek shared three specific stories of individuals that revealed to her just how instrumental children and youth can be in the wake of a natural disaster.

One of the stories in particular centered around 21-year-old Sam Johnson, who was directly affected by a catastrophic earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.

Instead of partaking in the parties thrown by others in the community to celebrate surviving the earthquake, he used Facebook to organize a relief effort that was referred to as a “student volunteer army.”

Dr. Lori Peek discusses the way children and youth deal with and respond to natural disasters at the LSC theater. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

“By the end, with the power of social media, Sam brought tens of thousands of people to work together on the recovery,” Peek recalled.

Although there is potential for youth empowerment centered around relief projects, Peek also acknowledged that children can be an exceptionally vulnerable population when they experience a disaster.

“Children tend to suffer longer and more-enduring mental health impacts, a number of large-scale quantitative studies have taught us that,” she said. “We also can turn to a number of studies that show that when given the opportunity, children can and do volunteer at very high rates in the aftermath of disaster.”

Last year, CSU partnered with Columbia University to form a youth empowerment group called SHOREline. Their main goal, among many others, is to teach children and youth what it takes for their own population to recover from a natural disaster and to help them reach out to other children currently struggling with the detrimental consequences.

The acronym SHORE stands for Skills, Hope, Opportunities, Recovery and Engagement, which, according to Peek, are the five things that children need the most when coping with a natural disaster.

“We are giving children and youth the research skills … and the capacity to solve their own problems,” Peek said.

SHOREline currently operates at six high schools along the Gulf Coast, but they hope to expand to Colorado in the coming years.

Dr. Lori Peek is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of Colorado State University’s Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis. She also holds the title of Associate Chair of the Social Sciences Research Council Task Force on Hurricane Katrina and Rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Peek is the recipient of many high honors and awards, including the Early Career Award for Outstanding Scholarship in 2009.

Collegian Reporter Haleigh McGill can be reached at, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.

Somewhere in the world, a disaster occurs each day. Sometimes the impacts are felt locally, such as the recent wildfires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado, that destroyed 605 homes. Other times, the event reaches across state and national boundaries, such as Hurricane Sandy along the east coast, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Globally, the number of natural disasters has increased fourfold during the past three decades—from about 120 per year during the 1980s to roughly 500 per year now.  These disasters, which claim tens of thousands of lives each year, exert a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals.

At the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis (CDRA) at Colorado State University, we engage in interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach activities for the primary purpose of reducing human vulnerability to disasters and increasing individual and community capacity to prepare for and recover from hazard events.

To learn more, visit us on facebook

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The Katrina Bookshelf

SHOREline Project Overview

Please check out this video featuring Dr. David Abramson and Dr. Lori Peek, the co-founders and co-directors of SHOREline! Here they are describing the background and development of this post-disaster recovery and youth empowerment program.

SHOREline Recruitment Video

Are you a high school student during the 2013-2014 academic year? Do you see challenges in your community that young people could address if they had the chance? Would you like to make a difference and meet new people from across the Gulf Coast and beyond? If you answered "Yes!" and you attend one of the following five high schools in the Gulf Coast areas, get an application at today. Grand Isle School, LA; Benjamin Franklin High School, LA; South LaFourche High School, LA; Gulfport High School, MS; and Bryant High School, AL.

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery

Brett Blair is a master's student in intercultural and international communication at Royal Roads University. Through a compelling video piece, Brett showcases the work of SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship-funded colleague Robin Cox, who studies youth empowerment as part of disaster recovery. Emphasizing the research's model of participatory, creative engagement, Blair's video also explores the increasingly-vocal youth demographic and its impact on shaping disaster policy and practice.

Gulf Oil Spill Research Goes Mobile with AT&T

August 23, 2012 - Following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health deploys a field team to collect research on the health, social and economic impacts on people who live within disaster zones. Under an agreement with AT&T, the NCDP uses the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 on AT&T's network to conduct surveys in the field and instantly share feedback with their team in New York.

For more information, please visit:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Dispersant Experiment

July 28, 2012 - The BP oil spill made international headlines two summers ago as images of stained beaches and oil-soaked pelicans portrayed what might have been the nation’s greatest ecological disaster.  Along with their massive PR efforts, British Petroleum had another method of keeping the spill from sinking their business – the chemical dispersant Corexit.  In the months following the spill, over two million gallons were sprayed and injected into the Gulf of Mexico and so began the great experiment…

After six months of filming in the Gulf in 2010, our first project, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Dispersant Experiment” draws from local residents, a variety of experts, and an in-depth lab experiment to exposes the truth about BP’s cleanup in the Gulf.

Please help share our piece as we aim to spread this truth and combat the multi-million dollar PR campaign that claims all is well.  As legal battles continue to play out, it is not too late to bring justice to the people of the Gulf.

NEED TO KNOW: Preserving memories after Sandy

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit "Care for Sandy" has emerged as one of the critical grassroots groups helping residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy save some of their most cherished memories. For more:




Please note that our web site is a work in progress. We encourage you to visit the site regularly for updated information.

SoGES Names 2015-16 Global Challenges Research Teams and Resident Fellows

The 2015-16 SoGES Global Challenges Research Teams and Research Fellows (front to back, starting at left): María Fernández-Giménez, Michele Betsill, Thomas Borch, Demitris Stevis, Craig Trumbo, Tara O’Connor Shelley, Charles Davis, Sonia Kreidenweis, Yury Desyaterik, Jens Blotevogel, Stephanie Malin, Colleen Duncan, Jane Choi, Arathi Seshadri, Marilee Long, Jennifer Cross, Brian Dunbar, Jennifer Peel

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) has announced seven diverse Global Challenges Research Teams and three Resident Faculty Fellows. The awards, which were selected from a competitive field of proposals submitted during the winter of 2015, are intended to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of complex global environmental issues, foster collaborative cross-campus partnerships, and support sustainability research at CSU.

The School funds innovative and interdisciplinary research that addresses sustainability to grand challenges, involving faculty members and researchers from across colleges. Selected projects target all six of the Research Focal Areas:

  • Climate Change and Energy
  • Food Security
  • Environmental Institutions and Governance
  • Sustainable Communities
  • Land and Water Resources and
  • Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management.

“We are very excited about this year’s awards,” says Diana Wall, director of SoGES. “We had a very strong pool of proposals, which shows the breadth and excellence of sustainability work here at CSU. I was particularly pleased that many of the proposals were aimed at improving the connections between scientific research and societal decision-making which is a key need for enhancing global sustainability.”

The 2015-2016 Global Challenges Research Teams
  • Food Systems Research Group. Principal Investigators: Meagan Schipanski and Arathi Seshadri, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Cini Brown, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management; Michael Carolan, Department of Sociology; and Robert Duffy, Department of Political Science. This research team will facilitate systems-based research to address the challenge of improving global food accessibility while reducing agriculture’s environmental impacts.
  • Environmental Justice CSU. Principal Investigators: Tara O’Connor Shelley and Stephanie Malin, Department of Sociology; Dimitris Stevis, Department of Political Science; and Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. This research team will work to deepen and broaden the environmental justice community within CSU, establish networks within the region and globally, and demonstrate how and why equity and environmental justice are necessary elements of the study of the environment, public health, and sustainability.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing. Principal Investigators: Thomas Borch, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences; Yury Desyaterik, Department of Atmospheric Science; Jens Blotevogel, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and William Hanneman, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. This research team will study the potential groundwater and human health impacts of surface spills containing chemicals used for unconventional oil and gas exploration.
  • Social Sciences in Air Quality, Climate, and Health Research. Principal Investigators: Marilee Long, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication and Department of Community and Behavioral Health; Sonia Kreidenweis, Department of Atmospheric Science and Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere; John Volckens, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Center for Energy Development and Health; A.R. Ravishankara, Department of Chemistry; and Jennifer Peel, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. This research team will study linkages between pollution and other aspects of air quality, climate change, and public health, with engagement from the social sciences to better understand human choices and behavior, improve communication of risks associated with poor air quality, and devise solutions to improve human health.
  • World Wide Views on Climate Change and Energy. Principal Investigators: Michele Betsill, Department of Political Science; Tony Cheng, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship; David McIvor, Department of Political Science. Following the June 6, 2015, World Wide Views on Climate and Energy ‘Day of Deliberation’ event, this GCRT will convene an interdisciplinary team to discuss results from the event and to conduct academic research projects on citizen engagement and public opinion on climate change and energy issues.
  • EcoDistrict Urban Resiliency Metrics. Principal Investigators: Brian Dunbar, Institute for the Built Environment; Jane Choi, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture; and Jeni Cross, Department of Sociology. This research team will develop standardized measures and collect baseline data to create a scientifically rigorous set of metrics for the EcoDistrict Framework, which will eventually be tested in the City of Fort Collins to help the City realize its climate neutrality, resource reduction, and healthy community goals.
  • Adaptation to Alternating Weather Extremes. Principal Investigators: Craig Trumbo, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication; Lori Peek, Department of Sociology; Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; and Russ Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Science. This research team will study the ecological and social impacts of rapid “whiplash” among droughts, wildfires, and floods as a consequence of climate change and work to identify strategies to better prepare communities for sustainable adaptation to this increasing threat.

“The support from SoGES will help us cultivate relationships among social, biological, and physical scientists across CSU who conduct research in these areas.” said Long, PI of Social Sciences in Air Quality Climate and Health Research. “Interdisciplinary research is vital to us understanding the key issues and developing effective solutions to problems of air quality, climate change, and public health.”

Resident Fellows

Three Resident Fellows also receive support from the School to advance studies in global environmental sustainability:

  • Charles Davis, Department of Political Science. Charles’ research will address efforts by federal and state agencies to deal with air quality impacts associated with the production of shale-based oil and gas resources in the U.S.
  • Colleen Duncan, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. Colleen’s Fellowship will explore the concept of health as a unifying theme through which to promote conservation and sustainable use of public lands.
  • María Fernández-Giménez, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship. María plans to explore how art and sustainability science intersect, and specifically how poetry, storytelling and music can be used to discover, analyze, and communicate about human-environmental relationships.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the SoGES Resident Fellowship program for 2015-2016,” said Duncan. “I’m interested in learning how to better integrate sustainability into my own research and outreach projects, as well as how to share this information with veterinary students and other animal health professionals in our college.”

Original story available here.