Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

William R. Travis

NC CASC University Director, Associate Professor of Geography

Headshot of William R. Travis
  • PhD. Clark University 1981
Affiliated Department
Office Location
SEEC - S348

Research Interests

I am a social scientist who studies environmental decision-making and risk management, with a focus on extreme events, natural hazards, and climate change. 

Current Research

Questions in three areas of human interaction with the environment guide my current research and teaching:

(1) Forecast Informed Decision-Making: What is the economic value of improved weather, climate and water forecasts?

  • Forecasts at all scales (from hours to decades) include uncertainty, but better decision tools can increase their value. More effort is needed to reveal the economic value of increasingly skilled earth ssytem predictions.

See our poster "Methods for calculating the value of Forecast-Informed Decision-Making": Rendezvous 2024 poster

(2) Extremes and Risk: What differentiates extreme events from routine, and can we improve our handling of low probability/high consequence risks? Why do disasters occur even when and where we invest significant efforts to make systems and settlements safe?

  • The worst disasters stem from a combination of natural extreme and social exposure and vulerability. Even environmental disturbances not far from the central tendency can propagate into extreme events given an unlucky causal chain and human exposure.

See our paper on socio-ecological extremes, especially Fig. 3: Socio-Environmental Extremes

(3) Climate Adaptation Science: How and when should managers of climate-sensitive resources change what they're doing in the face of climate change?

See "Scenario-Based Decision Analysis":

Research Categories

Climate and Weather
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About CECA

CECA connects and creates a supportive environment for graduate students and postdocs who come from various academic units to do research in CIRES.