We warmly welcome our next curator, Dr. Samantha Montano (@samlmontano)! Dr Montano has a BS in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans and a MS and PhD in Emergency Management from North Dakota State University. She is currently a visiting Assistant Professor of Emergency Management & Disaster Science at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her research specialty is in the area of disaster nonprofits and volunteerism. Dr. Montano also engages in science communication outreach related to the relationship between climate change and disasters.
Q: How did you get into Disaster Science?
I kept finding myself working with nonprofits that were doing disaster recovery work. I was living in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failure, then I started going down to the Louisiana coast following the BP Oil Disaster, and then I went to Joplin, Missouri for a week after their tornado. In the process of going to all these communities I found that the recovery process was not working — or at least not working effectively and efficiently. Each community was basically reinventing the wheel each time. It seemed pretty obvious to me that there could be a better way of doing this work. One of my undergraduate professors recommended I look into going to graduate school so I could actually study emergency management and then make recommendations based on empirical research.
I was working on post-Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans for several years. The process was painstakingly slow and completely inefficient. I was so horrified by the continued injustices happening throughout the recovery process that I was compelled to try and help change our approach. Once I got into disaster research I realized that the problems I witnessed firsthand in New Orleans were just the tip of the iceberg. There are people around the country fighting similar battles to protect and rebuild their communities.
Especially in the face of the climate crisis, finding effective ways to prevent disasters and help communities recovery effectively when they do happen is vital work.
Q: How does a typical day of work look for you?
I divide my time between teaching, research, and outreach. I teach emergency management courses — everything from Introduction to Emergency Management to graduate-level courses on Disaster Response. My research has primarily focused on the role of nonprofits and volunteers during and after disasters but I’ve also have done research related to gender and disasters, disaster mitigation, and more. I also do outreach/ sci comm work related to helping the public understand the relationship between climate change and disasters.
Q: I’ve never lived through a disaster, why does your work matter to us all?
Every single one of us is at risk of experiencing a disaster at some point in our lives. Disaster research can do everything from helping us learn how to best prepare to survive and recover from disasters to actually preventing them from happening in the first place.
Q: What do you do when you’re not actively working to solve problems with emergency management??
I travel as much as possible and collect antiquarian disaster books.
Q: And your ideal (non-disasterous!) day?
I’d spend the whole day on the beach with lots of good books and mangos.