Research Summary

My research interests include environmental hazards, emergency management, transportation, and geographic information science. More specifically, I have long running interests in wildfire warning and evacuation systems, as typified by recent fires in California, Hawaii, and Canada.


  • Ph.D., Geography, University of California Santa Barbara
  • M.A., Geography, University of California Santa Barbara
  • B.S., Computer and Information Science, University of Oregon


Tom Cova is Professor of Geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His research and teaching interests are environmental hazards, emergency management, transportation, and geographic information science (GISci). His primary focus is wildfire evacuation analysis and planning, and he has published on a variety of topics in many leading hazards, transportation and GIScience journals  He served as Chair of the GIS Specialty Group and Hazards, Disasters & Risks Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). In 2008, he served as Program Chair for the International Conference of Geographic Information Science (GIScience '08) held in Park City, Utah. Rencently, he led an NSF-funded program to mentor junior faculty in the field of Hazards/Disaster research. He teaches courses on environmental hazards, human geography, emergency management, and GIS.

Recent News

9/23: Interviewed by the Star Advertiser in Hawaii regarding proactive steps to reduce wildfire risk.

8/23: Interviewed by WIRED Magazine regarding the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii.

8/23: Interviewed by The Atlantic regarding the wildfires in Maui.

8/23: Interviewed by Technology Review regarding the quest to build fire-resilient homes.

9/22: Interviewed by the New Yorker about the terrifying choices that can arise in evacuating a wildfire.

7/22: Interviewed by The Atlantic regarding why The World needs to start Planning for the Fire Age.

7/22: Interviewed by the Salt Lake Tribune about how Park City Utah might evacaute in a wildfire.

6/22: Interviewed by the Colorado Sun about the Marshall Fire after-action report.

2/22: Interviewed by Open Democracy about the challenges of evacuting a planned refugee camp on Lesbos in Greece.

1/22: Interviewed by the Guardian regarding the Marshall Fire in Boulder Colorado.

11/21: Interviewed by the Colorado Springs Gazette about estimating wildfire evaucation times with models.

5/21: Interviewed by Boise NPR regarding wildfire evacuation planning.

5/21: Interviewed by Fox13 news in Salt Lake City regarding our wildfire evacuation research.

5/21: Our recent paper in Natural Hazards Review on dire wildfires was highlighted by the U media here.

10/20: Zixuan Huang defends his MS thesis on evacuating low-mobility populations with autonomous vehicles.

9/20: Interviewed by KUTV about dangerous wildfire conditions in the western US.

5/20:  Interviewed about wildfire shelters during COVID-19 in the Ventura County Star.

3/20: Gave a talk at an NFPA Wildland-Urban Interface Resiliency Workshop in San Francisco.

11/19: Interviewed about the Australian bushfires by the Washington Post.

11/19: Interviewed about the California wildfires by WIRED Magazine and The Guardian.

11/19: Gave a colloquium talk for the University of Alabama Geography Department on wildfire public safety.

9/19: Presented a short paper at Geocomputation '19 in Queenstown, New Zealand on geosimulating warning triggers.

8/19: Co-leading the 5th round of the NSF program, "Enabling the Next Generation of Hazards & Disaster Researchers" with Tim Collins, Sara Grineski, and Terri Norton.

7/19: Interviewed about the 2018 Camp Fire evacuation in Paradise, California by the New York Times.

4/19: Presented a short paper at the Collective Spatial Cognition workshop in Santa Barbara on spatial cognition in issuing wildire warnings.

2/19: Interviewed about shelter-in-place in wildfires by the San Jose Mercury News.

2/19: Gave a colloquium at Texas A&M University on wildfire public safety. What a great cluster of hazards and disaster researchers they have there in Geography and the Hazards Reduction & Recovery Center.

11/18: Interviewed about the Camp Fire evacuation in Paradise, California by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Wired Magazine.

9/18: Interviewed on NPR Morning Addition about household preparedness in the era of year-round wildfires.

9/18: Dapeng Li's new paper on computing wildfire evacuation trigger points with coupled fire-traffic models is in the news.

8/18: Interviewed about a California wildfire warning bill by KREM in Spokane, WA.

7/18: Participated in the GIS Science Symposium panel discussion at the ESRI conference in San Diego with featured speaker Camilo Mora and hosted by ESRI's Chief Scientist Deepsea Dawn Wright.

7/18: Co-investigator on an NSF grant led by Ken Smith from Family & Consumer Studies to establish a Wasatch Front Research Data Center which will be part of NEXUS (INterdisciplinary EXchange for Utah Science) housed in the Gardner Commons Building.

5/18: Gave a presentation on Public safety in the wildland-urban interface at the Living with Fire in California's Coast Ranges Symposium in Sonoma sponsored by Cal Fire.

3/18: Appointed to the Editorial Board of the journal Applied Geography.