Undergraduate Research Examines How Precarious Populations Weather Hurricanes

TAMPA, Fla. (July 20, 2009) – The University of South Florida’s Office of  Undergraduate Research will present a series of new research projects Wednesday examining the impact of hurricanes on children, the elderly, the impoverished and the infirm in the third year of  the unique National Science Foundation-funded program.


Centered on the theme of “The Social Impact of Hurricanes on Vulnerable Populations,” the Hurricane Studies Research Experience for Undergraduates symposium begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center, Room 2709. The projects are the work of 10 undergraduates from a variety of disciplines and who hail from colleges and universities nationwide.


The symposium is the culmination of an intensive, nine-week program where students working with faculty mentors focused on hurricane hazards and social vulnerabilities of individuals and communities. During the program, students immersed themselves in understanding how individuals, communities and institutions prepare for, experience and recover from hurricanes and visited local emergency operations centers, the NOAA National Weather Service, and MacDill Air Force Base, home of  “Hurricane Hunter” airplanes.


“Mentored by some of USF’s outstanding faculty experts, our students have worked very hard over these past two months not only to master important research skills, but to apply them in projects that will lead to better hurricane preparation, response and recovery in the future,’ said Naomi Yavneh, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research.


“They have also received training in such areas of humanitarian intervention as psychological first aid and Red Cross sheltering certification, so that they are prepared to improve both immediate and long-term hurricane outcomes.  It has been a privilege to work with such intelligent and compassionate students and professors. ”


The following is a list of projects to be presented:


Interdisciplinary Group Projects:


“Shooting at Hurricanes: Framework and Methods”

Jacob Norlund

Language and International Studies

College of Saint Scholastica, MN


“Shooting at Hurricanes: Preparedness and Pets”

Aly Collins

Mass Communications

University of South Florida


“Shooting at Hurricanes: Perceptions and Programs”

Samuel Cramer

Atmospheric Science

Cornell University, NY

Mentors: Graham Tobin, Ph.D., Geography & Margarethe Kusenback, Ph.D., Sociology


“A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Social Networks on Hurricane Evacuation”

Danielle Daniels


University of South Florida


Second presenter:

“Social Network Influence on Transportation and Travel Distance During a Hurricane Evacuation”

Marie-Louise Callahan


Plymouth State University

Mentors: Jennifer Collins, Ph.D., Geography & Beverly Ward, Ph.D., Anthropology


Individual Projects:


“SAVED: Assessing the Needs and Desires of Older Black Adults for Hurricane Services”

Alison Brooks

Environmental Studies

Elon University, NC

Mentor: Lisa Brown, Ph.D., Psychology


“The Effectiveness of Hurricane Preparedness Training for Children in Decreasing Anxiety and

Increasing Coping.”

Jenny Burges

International Relations

University of South Florida

Mentor: Jennifer Baggerly, Ph.D., Education


“Evacuation Policies and Practices for Sexual Offenders: A Study of Four Florida Counties”

Danielle Edwards


University of South Florida

Mentor: Robin Ersing, Ph.D., Social Work


“Evolution of the National Response Framework: Meeting the Needs of Limited English Proficient

and Non- English Speaking U.S. Citizens”

Taushia Brooks


College of Saint Scholastica

Mentor: Tom Mason, Ph.D., Public Health


“Evaluation of Community Response Teams in Hillsborough County, Florida: A Pilot Study”

Matthew Devitt


Pennsylvania State University

Mentor: Robin Ersing, Ph.D. School of Social Work



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 224 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.