Meet the interdisciplinary Climate Adaptation Research Team at the University of Canterbury.

Dr Tom Logan
Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow

Dr Tom Logan is a Senior Lecturer in Civil Systems Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He studied his PhD at the University of Michigan’s Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering, where he focused on the intersection between risk and urban planning. He also holds a Masters degree in Geography and Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University.

His research, teaching, and consulting focuses on climate change adaptation and understanding how to plan cities and communities that are more resilient, sustainable, healthy, and equitable. He tackles these problems using risk analysis, data science, and machine learning techniques. His current projects include conducting the adaptation plan for one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest cities, working with another large city’s emergency management office on understanding threats from natural hazards, and supporting several others with long-term strategic planning.

In the public media, Tom has written on issues including the complex challenge of how we will pay for climate threatened homes as well as how we should act to tackle the joint crises of housing and climate change. He has been interviewed on Radio NZ with Jesse Mulligan and Newstalk ZB with Kate Hawkesby.

Tom is the Technical Director at Urban Intelligence.

Mitchell Anderson
PhD Candidate

Climate Adaptation and Resilient Communities: A systems approach to enhancing local climate risk assessments through the identification of indirect impacts

Mitchell’s research looks to enhance quantitative and geospatial methodologies that can help communities and decision-makers better understand risk from natural and climate-related hazards.

Understanding the risk from climate change is critical for a region to effectively adapt and prepare for the future. However, communities worldwide are currently not equipped with the tools required to assess the risk from climate change. The urgency at which climate change adaptation must occur is ever-increasing with many local governments and agencies now required by law to provide evidence of risk assessments or adaptation planning.

Additionally, the scale of both allocated adaptation funding and adaptation success is directly related to how well the risks are understood, which at a local scale requires a rigorous geospatial risk assessment. However, existing guidance on understanding climate risks does not give sufficient insight into spatial approaches which limits practitioners to a high-level screening. Therefore, to adequately prepare and adapt our communities to climate change we must enhance the current state of risk assessment methodologies, tools, and guidance.

To do this Michell is looking at the following reviews and advancements:

  • A critical review of local climate risk assessments
  • An evaluation of indirect impacts on community capabilities caused by transportation network disruptions and essential service closure
  • An analysis of interdependent infrastructure failure to understand cascading impacts from the built environment on communities
  • An integration of this new understanding with existing techniques and associated advances in risk and resilience science to develop and conduct a rigorous local climate geospatial risk assessment in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Co-Advisors: Dr Lindsey Conrow, Dr Matthew Hobbs.

Mitch is the Managing Director at Urban Intelligence.

Nohah Forde
PhD Student

Understanding the communication challenges for climate risk, uncertainty and adaptation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

My research investigates how effective climate risk communication, community engagement, and behavioural interventions can contribute to building resilient communities.

I come from a corporate communications background, specialising in internal communications and organisational change. I completed a Bachelor of Communication Studies, majoring in Public Relations at AUT and went on to use these skills in a range of different sectors, including Commercial Real Estate, Insurance and Local Government.

I also completed a Master of Strategic Communication at UC where I wrote a thesis titled ‘Working during lockdown: Impacts of Covid-19 on Internal Communication’. This reflected on established public relations theory and literature to explore how internal communication practitioners adopted new ways of working during Covid-19. It considered how this altered the profession and will continue to shape the practice of internal communications in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most recently, I worked as a Senior Communications Advisor for Environment Canterbury where I worked closely with the CE to develop her internal brand and staff engagement, alongside a wider communications strategy for an organisation-wide change programme.

I’m fascinated by leadership development, organisational change, community engagement and strategic, people-centric communication. 

Marcelle Scadden
PhD student

Understanding cascading climate change risks to Māori communities

Forming a framework and methodology for climate risk assessments to be more effective and equitable for tangata whenua through a social and cultural approach.

My research began at the University of Otago, where I earned a BA (Hons) in Anthropology, considering the experiences of some Māori youth in the climate activist space. My PhD research at the University of Canterbury seeks to understand the way cascading climate change risks impact Māori communities socially and culturally. I whakapapa to Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Rakaipaaka, and Ngāti Porou, and I am on a journey of decolonisation, an approach I take into my research, where I aim to work collaboratively with mana whenua on climate risk assessments.

Co-advisor: Dr Charlotte Brown, Resilient Organisations,

Image placeholder

Portia Sharp
Masters Student

Understanding cascading climate change risks to the natural domain

My research investigates different ecosystems’ resilience to climate change induced risks and evaluates potential sensitivities as a result of non-climatic stressors. My goal is to reshape how we assess risk in the natural domain.

My journey started at the University of Otago where I studied a BAppSci in Environmental Management and Geographic Information Systems. During my degree I studied a range of topics from Biogeography, Oceanography, Policy, Surveying, Geography, Hydrology, amongst others. My final year consisted of a year long research project looking into the drivers of sediment accumulation in the Waitaki lake basin.

After completing my degree, I was eager to apply my skills and I took up a job as an Environmental Urban Planner. My time in this role allowed me to understand the decisions which contribute to how we determine risk in Aotearoa New Zealand. Being immersed in an interdisciplinary environment helped me understand more about the impacts of climate change on everyday lives and the problem solving required to respond to these impacts. I am excited to dive into the resilience of different ecosystem types and enhance the way we currently assess risk in the natural domain. I whakapapa to Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou.

Co-advisors: Dr Jonathan Tonkin

Patrick Curran
PhD Student

Climate Adaptation Planning Under a Deeply Uncertain Future

My research supports climate adaptation by providing planners with innovative tools that embrace uncertainty and create robust plans for our communities.

I’m fascinated by the concept of deep uncertainty and the power of using innovative decision making approaches to find solutions to the complex problems of climate change.

During my undergraduate studies in civil engineering, I completed a summer research project where I was introduced to the concept of Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU). Although it was an entirely new field for me at the time, I was struck by the immense potential these tools held, particularly in the context of addressing the urgent challenges of climate change.

I have since started my PhD in order to pursue practical, actionable strategies that can support communities in creating a resilient future, despite deep uncertainty. My research works in close collaboration with local councils across Aotearoa. Together, we identify the limitations within current guidance and regulations, creating new ideas and novel approaches to tackle the complex challenges that climate change poses. This collaboration is vital to my research purpose—to bridge the gap between theory and practice, ensuring that our communities are equipped to navigate the uncertainties of an ever-changing world.

Co-advisors: Dr Charlotte Brown – Resilient Organisations, Prof. Anita Wreford – Lincoln University

Image placeholder

Thomas Wallace
PhD Candidate

Understanding Flooding Caused by Levee Breaches and Dam Operation

Reducing flood risk in our communities by incorporating stopbanks breaching into flood maps and improving dam operations.

Following my civil engineering undergrad, I began a master’s project called ‘Determining the flood effects of undocumented stopbanks within the Waimea floodplain’. This project helped me find my research passion and gave me a desire to improve the lives of individuals and communities.

I am now working toward a PhD investigating improvement in flood management.

Co-advisors: Dr Kaley Crawford-Flett (University of Auckland), Prof Matthew Wilson (University of Canterbury)

Image placeholder

Jack Rose
Masters Student

Bridging and uniting diverse fields, harmonising their perspectives and methodologies through a Kaupapa Māori lens

My research journey, which began at Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington),  has taken me on a transformative path towards understanding climate change risks through a Te Ao Māori lens. My initial academic foundation was built on a BSc in Environmental science and Physical geography, where I continued to cultivate a fascination for the ecosystems of Aotearoa.

Driven by a deep desire to address climate change’s global impacts, I am pursuing an MSc in Environmental Science at the University of Canterbury. My journey took a profound turn when I realised the inspiring significance of my Māori heritage in shaping my approach to climate change risk assessment. Thus, I shifted my focus to explore climate change risk through a Te Ao Māori lens, acknowledging our unique connection to the lands and waters of Aotearoa. This research endeavour seeks to empower Māori communities with culturally informed insights, fostering resilience and sustainable adaptation strategies in the face of a changing climate.

Co-advisors: Dr Ann Brower

Indira Venkatraman
PhD Student

Adaptation Options for Rural Coastal Lowlands

Adapting to rising sea level risks in rural coastal lowlands through evidence based adaptation and resilience options.

My research career started at the University of Otago where I have completed my honours year reading in information science , with my dissertation looking at information seeking models in research candidates. There I also completed my master’s research in management accounting and data analytics, with my thesis exploring suitability of performance indicators in climate action plans in New Zealand. I have a deep interest in the intersection of data, accountability and the common good of communal stakeholders. This naturally led to my research journey being focused on climate change, sustainability and communal resilience and adaptation.

I work best at the nexus of management accounting, analytics and engineering methods for climate change and sustainable futures. I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, which has led me to interesting and varied research and community engagement experiences. This has been repeatedly evidenced in some of my publications and projects. For example working on audit materiality and metrics in actionable recycling (Otago, office of sustainability) where I used information space theory, audit metrics and materials flow analysis for supporting the university’s policy of plastic and packaging recyclability.

I am currently involved in a project which uses embedded case studies, composite index method, performance measurements to study artisanal handloom sustainability in India (Canterbury, Otago and MNIT Jaipur). I am excited to be part of the climate adaptation and resilience team at Canterbury, where I can further develop my interdisciplinary skills and approaches.

Logan Brunner
PhD Candidate

Modelling cascading failures throughout interdependent infrastructure to understand the impacts on our urban systems and the communities they serve.

I’m originally from Missouri, U.S., and did my undergraduate and master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. While there, my research included ecology and nutrient analysis, data statistics applied to natural hazards, and modelling impacts to critical infrastructures.

I then took a job in Utrecht, The Netherlands, at the research organisation TNO, where I was an environmental systems engineer. I worked on developing risk models and interactive tools for sustainable, subsurface energy systems (like hydrogen storage and geothermal projects). I enjoyed several years there, after which I decided to come back to academia to pursue a PhD with Tom and his growing research team in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

My current research interest lies in modelling public infrastructure networks (e.g. water pipelines, electrical power lines, transportation routes) and assessing the risk and resilience when confronted with natural hazards, which are becoming more varied in frequency and intensity due to climate change. These networks are often interconnected, resulting in cascading failures through the systems when one is disrupted.


  • Sam Archie. “Multi-criteria spatial optimisation planning”