Our Team

Cascadia 9.0 was developed as part of an ongoing research project to determine what motivates young adults to prepare for earthquakes and other natural disasters. Using video games as a research and outreach tool, we take a interdisciplinary approach to disaster preparedness.

Principal Investigators

The principal investigators (PIs) are all professors at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon - a small, liberal arts college where people know each other. The Cascadia collaboration was born soon after PI Safran started teaching an environmental studies course about natural disasters. As a geologist, she already understood the earthquake hazard well, but she came to realize two things: first, that a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake will likely be the worst disaster in U.S. history; and second, that the region is unprepared for it - not for lack of scientific understanding but for lack of an "earthquake culture." Enter media scholar Bryan Sebok and psychologist Erik Nilsen; together, the three started exploring media effects on preparedness behavior, soon enlisting computer scientist and game addict Peter Drake to bring interactive digital media to the show.

Elizabeth Safran

Environmental Studies

Erik Nilsen


Peter Drake

Computer Science

Bryan Sebok

Rhetoric & Media Studies

Liz Safran is a geologist who studies floods and landslides. She is a member of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission and one of Portland's Neighborhood Emergency Teams. She manages the project and is the liaison with local emergency managers.

Erik Nilsen is a cognitive psychologist who specializes in human-computer interaction. His research interests focus on serious games to develop creativity and motivate healthy behaviors. He leads the design and execution of the project's experiments.

Peter Drake is a computer scientist with expertise in machine learning and software development. He has developed programs to play the classical Asian game Go and has worked on game programming in computer science pedagogy. He oversees game development.

Bryan Sebok is a media historian and filmmaker whose work focuses on intersections between media studies and media production. He directs the focus groups that precede and follow all experiments and manages the project's social media presence.

Photo by Blake Ashby

Research Assistants

All the activities for this project have been carried out by undergraduate students or recent graduates under the supervision of the PIs. Over 50 students have worked on programming games, conducting experiments, and running focus groups over the past few years. Our project activities have also tied into several courses, including Software Development (Drake), Human-Computer Interaction (Nilsen), Entrepreneurship (Sebok), and (Un)Natural Disasters (Safran).

Game Developers

Cascadia Earthquake RPG Maker game: Andy Bednarz, Journey Ma-Johnson, Gabriel Machado, Skout Roberson, Justin Schaefer, Ben Zucker

Cascadia 9.0: Peter Huizenga, Gabe Mertz, Anna Lyubinina, Marco Palacios, Leon Rogge, Conor Sandoval Flemming, Thien Tran, Liza Clairagneau, Liam Beveridge, Jamie Quishenberry, Samson Herman, Lana Parezanin, Blythe Ballesteros, Anna DeSmet, Tristan Saldanha, Zeb Wichert, Annabel Paris, Ela Pencl, Sarah Wood

Cascadia 9.1: Falcon Garfein, Shohrukh Jalolov, Henry Moray, Terin Trachtenberg, Garret Bosse, William Lew, Aleksa Belic, Ross Miyabuchi, Skye Russ, Isaiah Nduku, Ahmed Abdalla Ahmed Esmail, Carson Reader, Evan Eldridge, Alberto Dos Santos

Designing game scenes in Unity

Behavioral Researchers

Pilot study with RPG Maker Game: Rachel Aragaki, Ryan Nilsen, Carly LaPlaca, Elise Gilmore, Natalie Casson

Cascadia 9.0 experiment and focus groups: Shoshanna Rybeck, Ally Knighton, Elise Gilmore, Natalie Casson, Jensen Kraus, Sylvia Kunz, Miri Rinehart

Cascadia 9.1 experiment and focus groups: Sylvia Kunz, Miri Rinehart

Emergency Management Advisors

Warm thanks to those who have consulted with us and guided our thinking over the last several years, including:

Da'Von Angel-Wilson, Alice Busch, Glenn Devitt, Alita Fitz, Aaron Fox, Laura Hall, Regina Ingabire, Susan Romanski, Justin Ross, Jeff Rubin, Jeremy Van Keuren, Chris Walsh, Jay Wilson

Funding Sources

  • National Science Foundation Award #1917148

  • John S. Rogers Science Research Program at Lewis & Clark College

  • Levin Family Foundation

  • Anonymous gift to E. B. Safran

The findings, opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or any other funders or advisors.