Whenever anyone asks, I like to make it clear that I'm a geographer at heart. Long before I focused my career on disaster risk and climate resilience, I was interested in why cities were located where they were, how they came to be and the ways they changed over time, as well as what they are going to be like in the future. I poured over maps of the cities that interested me the most, like Norfolk, VA (my hometown), which has an incredible 400+ year history of development and change. And when I left Norfolk for San Francisco and, later, Seattle, I did the same thing for those places.
This casual academic interest in the built environment led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in urban planning, where I learned rather quickly that I was never destined to be an urban planner. But I did discover a new interest: the impacts of climate change on human communities and the resources we rely on. I wanted to know more about how we should be adapting our cities (and the ways we manage them) to the impacts of climate change, so I accepted a position with the City of Norfolk's Office of Emergency Preparedness developing coastal resilience strategies.
While with the City of Norfolk, I earned my first master's degree. I wanted to focus on the environmental sciences during my graduate education, so I got a masters in natural resources management, where I studied the impacts of climate change on forests and forest management in the northern Rockies. Afterward, I went to work at Cascadia Consulting Group in Seattle, where I spent the next two years developing climate impact and vulnerability assessments for natural resources and critical infrastructure throughout the Pacific Northwest. As those projects came to a close, I realized I wasn't done researching climate impacts yet.
I left Seattle after being accepted into the environmental science & management PhD program at Montclair State University (in Montclair, NJ). From 2017-2019, I worked as a field researcher, lab technician, and spatial analyst for the NJ Center for Water Science and Technology while working toward my doctorate. My work focused primarily on hydrologic connectivity, including how climate change might impact the streamflow of urban northeastern streams.
I reached doctoral candidacy status in the spring of 2019, but soon ran into issues with my doctoral advisory committee that forced me to reevaluate whether I was in the right program and place. Although I decided to leave Montclair State before finishing my doctorate, I had done enough to earn a second master's degree, this time in earth & environmental science.
In October 2019, I accepted the Mitigation Strategist position at the Emergency Management Division of the Washington Military Department and returned to Washington State. I now have the pleasure of focusing my time on what still interests me the most: how climate change impacts human communities and the resources we rely on. Today, I get to apply the principles of geography and geographic information science to questions like, "Why do wildfires occur where they do, and can we do anything about that?" Or, "Can we predict where floods are most likely to occur by 2050?" I investigate these questions through spatial analysis and spatial statistics while constantly working on refining my geographic approaches to hazard risk assessment.
I was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Norfolk and neighboring Virginia Beach. I grew up fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, lazing around on one of the hundreds of local beaches, eating beautiful seafood, and exploring the other cities of the US Mid-Atlantic, like Richmond, Washington DC, and Baltimore.
I left the East Coast in late 2009 for San Francisco, where I attended SF State University for one year before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, where I finished my bachelor's degree. In late 2012, I met my future wife, Kirsten, at a mutual friend's Christmas party in Norfolk, and by 2015 we were engaged and relocating back to the West Coast, this time to Seattle for my job with Cascadia Consulting Group. For the next seven years, we traveled extensively - including hiking, kayaking, and camping all over the Pacific Northwest, three cross-country road trips, and multiple trips to Europe. In 2016, Kirsten and I got married at my sister's cabin in the mountains outside of Helena, Montana. In 2018, I received my dual citizenship with Ireland, which will always be a second home to me.
We eventually settled in Tacoma in 2019 when both of us found employment with the State of Washington. In November 2021, our son, Cormac, was born at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma.
Norfolk was a great place to learn about resilience. It's a hub of international commerce with one of the busiest harbors in the US, including the biggest Naval base in the world, and it faces constant threats from sea level rise and coastal storms.
The view of Manhattan from my lab at Montclair State University.
Washington State might be the most interesting place to study natural hazards. Climate-wise, we are exposed to powerful storms and atmospheric rivers, sea level rise, riverine flooding, landslides, and wildfires. And of course we experience the infamous geological hazards of the Pacific Rim: earthquakes, tsunamis, and active volcanoes (like Mt. Rainier looming above Tacoma in this photo).
My old stomping grounds along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach.
Our small, intimate wedding in the mountains of Montana.
Exploring Old Town Edinburgh.
Me, Kirsten, Cormac, and Guinness (who's more interested in the snow than the family photo).
Montclair State University
University of Denver
Virginia Commonwealth University
MS, Earth & Environmental Science
Concentration: Sustainability sciences
Thesis: Watershed-scale vulnerability to climate impacts on urban streams
MS, Natural Resource Management
Concentration: Environmental management
Thesis: Climate adaptation for northern Rocky Mountain pine forests
BS, Urban & Regional Planning
Capstone: Urban stormwater management through green space and low-impact development