Professor (Ph.D. UC-Santa Barbara, 1999), Director of the Center for Natural & Technological Hazards  -- Environmental hazards, coupled human-environmental systems, emergency management, transportation, geographic information science

Tom Cova


  • Office: Bldg 73 Room 207
  • e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • phone: 801-581-7930

Research Interests:

  • Environmental hazards
  • Coupled human-environmental systems
  • Emergency management
  • Transportation
  • Geographic Information Science



Tom Cova is Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Natural & Technological Hazards at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.  His research and teaching interests are environmental hazards, coupled natural-human systems, transportation, sustainability, and geographic information science.  His primary focus is wildfire evacuation analysis and planning, but 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 was Program Chair for the International Conference of Geographic Information Science (GIScience '08) held in Park City, Utah.  He teaches courses on environmental hazards, human-environmental systems, sustainability, and geographic information systems (GIS).


  • 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.

Courses Taught:

  • GEOG 3340/5340 Geography of Disasters & Emergency Management
  • GEOG 5180/6180 GIS & Python


  • Center for Natural & Technological Hazards


  • Li, D., Cova, T.J., Dennison, P.E. (in press) Using reverse geocoding to identify prominent wildfire evacuation trigger points. Applied Geography.
  • Cova, T.J., Dennison, P.E., Li D., Drews, F.A., Siebeneck, L.K., Lindell, M.K. (in press) Warning triggers in environmental hazards: who should be warned to do what and when? Risk Analysis.
  • Nicoll, K., Cova, T.J., Siebeneck, L.K., Martineau, E. (2016) Assessing "preparedness elevated": seismic risk perception and household adjustment in Salt Lake City, Utah. Journal of Geography & Natural Disasters, . 6(2): 168.
  • Li, D., Cova, T.J., Dennison, P.E. (2015) A household-level approach to staging wildfire evacuation warnings using trigger modeling. Computers, Environment, & Urban Systems, 54:56-67.
  • Drews, F.A., Siebeneck, L.K., Cova, T.J. (2015) Information search and decision making in computer based wildfire simulations. Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making. 9(3): 229-240.
  • Hile, R. and Cova, T.J. (2015) Exploratory testing of an artificial neural network classification for enhancement of the social vulnerability index. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 4(4): 1774-1790.
  • Cova, T.J. (2014) Evacuation Planning, in Encyclopedia of Transportation, SAGE Publications, M. Garrett (ed.).
  • Drews, F.A., Musters, A., Siebeneck, L.K., and Cova, T.J. (2014) Environmental factors that affect wildfire protective-action recommendations. International Journal of Emergency Management, 10(2): 153-168
  • Siebeneck, L.K., and Cova (2014) T.J. Risk communication after disaster: re-entry following the 2008 Cedar River Flood. Natural Hazards Review, 15: 158-166.
  • Dennison, P.E., Fryer, G.K., and Cova, T.J. (2014) Identification of fire fighter safety zones using lidar, Environmental Modelling and Software, 59: 91-97.
  • Cova, T.J., Theobald, D.M, Norman, J., and Siebeneck, L.K. (2013) Mapping wildfire evacuation vulnerability in the western US: the limits of infrastructure. Geojournal, 78(2): 273-285.
  • Fryer, G., Dennison, P.E. and Cova, T.J. (2013) Wildland firefighter entrapment avoidance: modeling evacuation triggers. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 22(7): 883-893.
  • Siebeneck, L.K. and Cova, T.J. (2012) Spatial and temporal variation in evacuee risk perception throughout the evacuation and return-entry process, Risk Analysis, 32(9), 1468-1480. Published, 09/2012. 
  • Cova, T.J. Dennison, P.E. Drews, F.A. (2011) Modeling evacuate versusshelter-in-place decisions in wildfires. Sustainability, 3(10): 1662-1687. Published, 09/30/2011.
  • Kobayashi, T. Medina, R. and Cova, T.J. (2011) Visualizing diurnal population change in urban areas for emergency management. Professional Geographer, 63: 113-130. Published, 02/07/2011. 
  • Larsen, J.C. Dennison, P.E. Cova, T.J. Jones, C. (2011) Evaluating dynamic wildfire evacuation trigger buffers using the 2003 Cedar Fire. Applied Geography, 31: 12-19. Published, 01/30/2011. 
  • Cao, L. Cova, T.J. Dennison, P.E. and Dearing, M.D. (2011) Using MODIS imagery to predict hantavirus risk. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Published, 02/16/2011. 
  • Moffatt, S.F. and Cova, T.J. (2010) Parcel-scale earthquake loss estimation with HAZUS: a case-study in Salt Lake County, Utah. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 37:17-29. Published, 01/2010. 
  • Pultar, E. Cova, T.J. Yuan, M. and Goodchild, M.F. (2010) EDGIS: a dynamic GIS based on space-time points. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 24: 329-346. Published, 03/03/2010. 
  • Anguelova, Z. et al. (2010) Integrating fire behavior and pedestrian mobility models to assess potential risk to humans from wildfires within the US-Mexico border zone. Professional Geographer, 62: 230-247. Published, 02/09/2010. 
  • Cova, T.J. Drews, F.A. Siebeneck, L.K. and Musters, A. (2009) Protective actions in wildfires: evacuate or shelter-in-place? Natural Hazards Review, 10(4): 151-162. Published, 2009. 
  • Pultar, E. Raubal, M. Cova, T.J. and Goodchild, M.F. (2009) Dynamic GIS case studies: wildfire evacuation and volunteered geographic information, Transactions in GIS, 13: 85-104. Published, 2009. 
  • Siebeneck, L.K. and Cova, T.J. (2008) An assessment of the return-entry process for Hurricane Rita 2005. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 26(2): 91-111. Published, 2008. 
  • Cova, T.J. Miller, H.J. Beard, K. Frank, A.U. Goodchild, M.F. Eds. (2008) Geographic Information Science - 5th International Conference (GIScience 2008), Park City, Utah. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) 5266, Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Published, 2008. 
  • Goodchild, M.F. Yuan, M. and Cova, T.J. (2007) Towards a general theory of geographic representation in GIS. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. 21(3): 239-260. Published, 2007. 
  • Dennison, P.E. Cova, T.J. and Moritz, M.A. (2007) WUIVAC: a wildland-urban interface evacuation trigger model applied in strategic wildfire scenarios. Natural Hazards, 40, 181-199. Published, 2007. 
  • VanLooy, J. and Cova, T.J. (2007) GIS-based indices for comparing airline flight-path vulnerability to volcanoes. Professional Geographer, 59(1): 74-86. Published, 2007. 
  • Kim, T.H. and Cova, T.J. (2007) Tweening grammars: deformation rules for representing change between discrete geographic entities. Computers, Environment & Urban Systems, 31(3): 317-336. Published, 2007. 
  • Kim, T.H. Cova, T.J. and Brunelle, A. (2006) Exploratory map animation for post-event analysis of wildfire protective action recommendations. Natural Hazards Review, 7(1): 1-11. Published, 2006. 
  • Sutton, P.C. Cova, T.J. and Elvidge, C. (2006) Mapping "Exurbia" in the conterminous U.S. using nighttime satellite imagery. Geocarto International, 21(2):39-45. Published, 2006. 
  • Cova, T.J. Dennison, P.E. Kim, T.H. and Moritz, M.A. (2005) Setting wildfire evacuation trigger-points using fire spread modeling and GIS. Transactions in GIS, 9(4): 603-617. Published, 2005. 
  • Cova, T.J. (2005) Public safety in the urban-wildland interface: Should fire-prone communities have a maximum occupancy? Natural Hazards Review, 6(3): 99-108. Published, 2005. 
  • Cova, T.J. Sutton, P.C. and Theobald, D.M. (2004) Exurban change detection in fire-prone areas with nighttime satellite imagery. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 70(11): 1249-1257. Published, 2004. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Conger, S. (2004) Transportation hazards. in Handbook of Transportation Engineering, M. Kutz (ed.), McGraw Hill, New York, pp. 17.1-17.24. Published, 2004. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Johnson, J.P. (2003) A network flow model for lane-based evacuation routing. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 37(7): 579-604. Published, 2003. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Goodchild, M.F. (2002) Extending geographical representation to include fields of spatial objects. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 16(6): 509-532. Published, 2002. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Johnson, J.P. (2002) Microsimulation of neighborhood evacuations in the urban-wildland interface. Environment and Planning A, 34(12): 2211-2229. Published, 2002. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Church, R.L. (2000) Contiguity constraints for single-region site search problems. Geographical Analysis, 32(4): 306-329. Published, 2000. 
  • Church, R.L. and Cova, T.J. (2000) Mapping evacuation risk on transportation networks using a spatial optimization model. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 8(1-6): 321-336. Published, 2000. 
  • Radke, J. Cova, T. Sheridan, M. Troy, A. Lan, M. and Johnson, R. (2000) Application challenges for GIScience: implications for research, education, and policy for risk assessment, emergency preparedness and response. URISA Journal, 12:15-30. Published, 2000. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Church, R.L. (2000) Exploratory spatial optimization in site search: a neighborhood operator approach. Computers, Environment & Urban Systems, 21: 401-419. Published, 2000. 
  • Cova, T.J. (1999) GIS in emergency management. In: Geographical Information Systems: Principles, Techniques, Applications, and Management, P.A. Longley, M.F. Goodchild, D.J. Maguire, D.W. Rhind (eds.), John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 845-858. Published, 1999. 
  • Cova, T.J. and Church, R.L. (1997) Modelling community evacuation vulnerability using GIS. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 11(8): 763-784. Published, 1997.