Dr. Robert Oakes is a Research Associate at UNU-EHS. He investigates population movements related to environmental risk, climate change and disasters. Specifically he researches the subjective, or personal understandings people have of risk, the impact of social networks and how these can translate into community level movements.
He takes a multidisciplinary approach as his doctorate is in Geography but his research includes theories and methods from Economics, Complexity, Psychology, Sociology and Anthropoolgy. His doctorate from the University of Sussex used Q method and Agent Based Modelling to investigate evacuation flows from Galveston in the lead up to Hurricane Ike in 2008. He used Q method to show that a variety of factors can influence the decision to stay and weather the storm, thus demonstrating the need for a wider understanding of what is termed “rational” behavior. He also used an Agent Based Model to investigate the impact of social networks or peer pressure on community level evacuation, demonstrating the utility of this innovative method for studying climate related movements.