• Professor, Geography Department

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 Utah, California and Greece.


  • 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. He teaches courses on environmental hazards, human geography, emergency management, and GIS.

Recent News

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

Invited talk (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.

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

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

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

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

GIS Panel (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.

Grant (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.

Invited talk (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.

Student's student's award (4/18): Rejina Manandhar won the 2018 Gilbert F. White Award for best dissertation from the Hazards, Risks & Disasters Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. Rejina is a former student of Laura Siebeneck who graduated from Utah Geography in 2010 and is an Associate Professor of Emergency Management at the University of North Texas (UNT).

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

New book (10/17): Co-edited a GIS volume with Ming Tsou from San Diego State University for Oxford University Press with some fantastic authors: Cova, T.J. and Tsou, M. (eds.) 2017. GIS Methods & Techniques. vol. 1 in Comprehensive Geographic Information Systems, B. Huang (editor in chief). Oxford: Elsevier.

Grant (9/17): Co-investigator on an NSF grant led by Kim Shoaf in Preventive Medicine to study the evacuation decision-making process of hospital administrators in Hurricane Harvey.