generic speaker image
Robin Cox - ResilienceByDesign Research Lab and Royal Roads University. Victoria, BC, CA

Robin Cox Robin Cox

Research Director and Professor | ResilienceByDesign Research Lab and Royal Roads University

Victoria, BC, CANADA

Robin Cox's expertise includes the psychosocial dimensions of disasters, disaster resilience, and traumatic stress and coping.





loading image


Solving climate change will require a Neverland mindset | Robin Cox | Walrus Talks Emergency Relief: A conversation about the Nepal 2015 Earthquake




Dr. Robin Cox is a Professor and Program Head of the Disaster and Emergency Management programs at Royal Roads University, and the Research Director of the ResilienceByDesign Research Innovation Lab (RbD). Robin has devoted her program of research to focus on understanding the psychosocial, human dimensions of disasters and climate change with a particular emphasis on working with young people.

Robin is the director of the RbD - an applied research lab that conducts interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research using social innovation, creative action research, mixed-methods and participatory approaches to explore disaster risk, resilience, and transformative climate change adaptation with youth and communities.

Specific expertise includes:
individuals and community resilience; human dimensions of climate change adaptation; disaster risk reduction, youth engagement; the role of disasters in sparking social change and creative innovation; psychological and social impacts of disasters; psychosocial interventions; traumatic stress and stress; community resilience assessment.

Current RbD Projects:

1) Alberta Resilient Communities Project (ARC) - working with youth to use social innovation to develop youth-generated community resilience initiatives (funded by Alberta Innovates Health);
2) Youth Voices Rising - working with youth, community organizations and participatory video (funded by Canadian Red Cross);
3) Youth Resilience in the context of Oil and Gas Production and Climate Change focus on understanding and catalyzing the capacity of youth to contribute to the resilience of their families and communities in the face of changing contexts and communities; (funded by CIHR);
4) Youth Storyline Project - using photo-story and documentary film to engage Indigenous and Non-Indigenous youth from communities along the TransMountain pipeline route (BC and Alberta) in authentic dialogues to explore visions for Canada's energy future.

Industry Expertise (5)



Mental Health Care

Public Safety

Health and Wellness

Areas of Expertise (15)


Higher Education

Community Resilience

Disaster Psychosocial Response

Stress and Coping

Qualitative and Mixed Method Research

Participatory Research

Human Dimensions of Disasters

Disaster Psychosocial Planning

Creative Action Research

Disaster Management

Mental Health

Disaster Mental Health Interventions

Disaster Communication

Youth Engagement

Accomplishments (5)

Kelly Outstanding Teaching Award (professional)

2016 Awarded by Royal Roads University.

Post-Doctoral Fellowship (professional)

2008 Michael Smith Health Research Foundation.

Certificate of Academic Excellence (professional)

2007 Awarded by the Canadian Psychological Association.

Best Doctoral Dissertation Award (professional)

2007 Awarded by the Canadian Psychological Association – Counselling Section.

Doctoral Fellowship (professional)

2006 Social Science & Humanities Research Council.

Education (3)

University of British Columbia: Ph.D., Educational and Counselling Psychology 2007

University of British Columbia: M.A., Educational and Counselling Psychology 1996

University of British Columbia: B.A., Psychology 1993

Media Appearances (8)

'There was so much stuff': the 'second disaster' of unwanted donations

CBC Radio  radio


It's not uncommon for goods donated during disasters to get shipped elsewhere, says Robin Cox. ...

view more

Radio interview about Fort McMurray forest fire

CBC Radio - On The Coast  radio


Interview with Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio's 'On The Coast' about the traumatic effects of Fort McMurray forest fires. Interview begins at 2:40.

view more

Un Acadien au coeur du traumatisme de Fort McMurray

Radio Canada  online


Comment les 80 000 évacués de Fort McMurray peuvent-ils s'attendre à vivre les prochaines semaines? Des centres d'aide ont été installés à Calgary et à Edmonton, où la plupart des sinistrés ont trouvé refuge. Conseils et trucs pour surmonter le traumatisme.

view more

Wildfires and psychology

CBC Radio - BC Almanac  radio


Royal Roads University Prof. Robin Cox on wildfires and the psychological impact they can have.

view more

Past disasters show how evacuees rebuild and recover, psychologists say

CBC News  online


A massive, unpredictable fire is a traumatic event, and the evacuation touches everyone in the community, said Prof. Robin Cox, the graduate program leader in disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University in Victoria ...

view more

The psychology behind forest fires and how to cope with the stress

The Globe and Mail  


As head of the Disaster and Emergency Management program at Royal ... Robin Cox has an academic sense of how such natural disasters ...

view more

Study investigates disaster impact, resiliency of kids in 2013 floods

Global News  online


Called the Alberta Resilient Communities (ARC) project, it’s led by faculty of social work associate professor Julie Drolet, professor Robin Cox from Royal Roads University and Mount Royal University’s assistant professor Caroline McDonald-Harker ...

view more

9-11 - 15 years later

CFAX 1070 Radio  radio


Talking about 9-11, fifteen years later with Radio Host Pamela McCall. Robin was one of a small group of Canadian Red Cross volunteers seconded by the American Red Cross as part of the enormous response to the collapse of the World Trade Centre. In this call in show, Robin offers some thoughts on what the 9-11 events contributed to our understanding of trauma and the psychosocial impacts of disasters. She states "It's part of the reason it's important to continue talking about these events in some way, even though it's 15 years ago, to help children and young people understand how history shapes current events and to dig deeper, below the kinds of headline news that we consume to understand how policy and cultural changes and foreign relations etc get shaped by events like these and how they are used in the rhetoric of politicians. So I think it's a really important consideration and as tragic as the loss of life was, there was this deep collective cultural impact in North America in particular, which had global implications that we are still experiencing around the world" Robin's comments begin at 6 minutes , 40s.

view more

Event Appearances (6)

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery: A participatory action research project

XVIII International Sociological Association World Congress of Sociology  Yokohama, Japan


Rural Resilience

37th Natural Hazards Research and Application Workshop  Broomfield, CO


Creating and Exploring the integration of PhotoVoice and Human Library methodologies in community building

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference  Barcelona Spain


The Rural Disaster Resilience Project and the Resilience Index

Canadian Risks and Hazards Network Annual Symposium  Ottawa, ON


Disaster Resilience and Risk Reduction

Forum on Emergency Preparedness and Response 2012  Edmonton, AB


Youth Engagement in Disaster Risk Reduction

Understanding Risk+ Vancouver  Vancouver, British Columbia Canada


Research Grants (7)

Children and youth’s resilience in the context of energy resource production, climate change, and the need to transition to low-carbon goods and services

Social Science Humanities Research Council Knowledge Synthesis Grant 421-2014-1025 $50,000


Current practices in energy resource extraction, especially carbon-intensive options such as natural gas and oil, present a major challenge for global economic and social sustainability. Children and youth emerge as key population groups both because they are impacted by energy resource extraction, and because they stand as potentially powerful actors in implementing the transition to low-carbon goods and services. Despite this, children and youth are noticeably absent from the social science literature on natural resources, and are typically excluded from impact assessments and national development plans. This synthesis analyzes current knowledge about the effects of energy resource extraction on child and youth’s biopsychosocial health and resilience. It will also be used to make concrete recommendations for policy makers and practitioners to minimize the negative impacts of energy resource extraction on youth and maximize strategies for engaging children and youth as leaders, innovators and change makers in the global energy transition.


Canadian Institute for Health Research: Team Grant: Environments and Health: Intersectoral Prevention Research - LOI $50,000


This LOI grant supports a transdisciplinary team of researchers, led by PI Dr. Michael Ungar, in the development of a full grant application for a CIHR Team Grant. This research focuses on developing a systemic understanding of how oil and gas industries affect the multiple social determinants of youth health. Participatory explore how to enhance the potentially positive impacts of extraction industries (e.g., employment, community cohesion) while mitigating the negative consequences of oil and gas production (e.g. finding better ways to help youth deal with family stressors, social disruptions and forced migration), and exploring how youth can contribute to low carbon economies. Simply put, we want to learn how young people adapt across the carbon cycle and use what we learn about their patterns of resilience to improve the lives of all young people. Both oil and gas production and the process of consumption (as it relates to climate change) have large impacts, both positive and negative, on social, economic and environmental systems that affect young people’s mental health and overall wellbeing. To better understand these complex relationships at both ends of the carbon cycle, a multidisciplinary and multisectoral team of researchers and community and industry partners in two communities in Canada (one in Alberta and one in Nunavut) and two communities in South Africa (one on the coast, another in the interior) will study the resilience of young people and the systems with which they interact. Unique among studies of resilience, this project will conduct four detailed case studies to examine the biological and psychological resilience of young people, family and community resilience, and the resilience of environmental systems as they interact over a period of several years.

Alberta Resilient Communities Research Project: Engaging Children and Youth in Community Resilience Post-flood in Southern Alberta

Alberta Innovates Health Solutions $1,059,715


Dr. Julie Drolet - University of Calgary - Community Influencers Stream Dr. Robin S. Cox - Royal Roads University -Youth Focused Stream Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker - Child Focused Stream The Alberta Resilient Communities research project focuses on the lived realities of children, youth, and their communities in order to inform and strengthen child and youth mental health and enhance disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction, and resilience in Southern Alberta. The research team is a collaborative partnership between academics of the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and Royal Roads University and community based partners from Calgary, High River, and the Foothills region. Our approach to research and resilience-building is child – and youth centered, utilizing participatory methods where children and young people are engaged and empowered along with adult allies and communities to enact resilience building strategies. Over the next three years, we plan not only to produce literature on post-disaster health and resilience among children and youth, but also contribute to the development of innovative child and youth informed resources, tools, guides and frameworks to positively impact resilience and disaster recovery. We will develop activities that empower children, youth, and their adult allies to implement resilience building in their households and communities, while also influencing practice and policy through recommendations to reduce disaster risk and increase resilience in Alberta.

YCDR Resilience Innovation Lab

International Social Sciences Council T2S_PP- 180 $41,805


DESCRIPTION: Youth Creating Disaster Resilience (YCDR) seeks to formally establish an international, trans-disciplinary applied research lab focused on youth-centered and youth-friendly disaster risk reduction and community resilience research and action. Youth can be significantly and adversely impacted during disasters but they can also be particularly resilient and powerful ‘catalysts for change.’ The YCDR Innovation Lab is dedicated to the on-going development of applied research, education and policy initiatives that empower youth as transformative knowledge generators, partners, and citizens. YCDR will involve youth leaders, researchers, practitioners, and non-governmental organizations from North America, Australia, South East Asia and Africa. Youth’s creative expression and self-advocacy will be encouraged through participatory video, new media production, and the local and global dissemination of their creative outputs. YCDR’s goal is to enhance our understanding of and ability to engage youth, particularly those marginalized by poverty, gender, and other forms of inequality, in social change and resilience building.

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience

Social Science Humanities Research Council Insight Grant $182,867


The Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience (YCDR) is a research project for youth affected by disasters. YCDR is connecting with youth in disaster-affected communities in Canada and the United States. We are using art, video, and storytelling to hear directly from youth about what they need, the challenges they have faced, and how they might contribute to helping their friends, families, and communities recover from disasters.

view more

Building resilience and rural health system capability for pre-disaster planning and preparedness

JusticeCRTI 07-0135RD Justice Institute of BC with funding from Center for Security Science 

The Rural Disaster Resilience Project was a multi-year, multi-million dollar project funded by Defense Research and Development Canada, Centre for Security Science. Its purpose is to strengthen the community disaster management and health system capabilities of rural, remote, and coastal communities through community-based action research that informs and influences policy and practice. The project developed three online assessment tools: Rural Resiliency Index, Hazard Resilience Index and Hazard Risk Assessment. Project partners include: JIBC Office of Applied Research, Centre for Security Science, Public Health Agency of Canada, JIBC Emergency Management Division, Royal Roads University, and Pearces 2 Consulting Corporation.

view more

Enhancing Community Resilience: Youth engagement in disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council $179, 399


This research Is focused on enhancing youth engagement in disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and resilience building. The project will employ a youth participatory action approach and a mixed-methods research design to explore issues related to DRR, CCA and resilience with Gen Z youth (ages 14-24). The goal is to increase the disaster resilience and climate change adaptive capacity of youth and their communities through capacity building, meaningful youth engagement, and social innovation. The three year research project will engage youth as co-researchers in experiential research workshops designed to build skills in social innovation and community research, and build a deeper understanding of risk and resilience. This qualitative work will be inform the development of a survey that investigates barriers to and drivers of youth engagement in DRR and CCA. Youth will be invited to engage as co-researchers and to work with the research team to refine and then implement a youth-centric social innovation lab process first piloted with disaster impacted youth in Southern Alberta. The resilience strategy prototypes generated through the lab will be piloted and evaluated in the research communities. Young people will be involved throughout as co-researchers, actively participating in knowledge mobilization activities designed to engage policy and decision makers, spark community conversations, and broadly share the findings.

Articles (8)

Community Disaster Resilience and the Rural Resilience Index

American Behavioral Scientist

2014 This article describes the development and field testing of the Rural Resilience Index (RRI), an applied disaster resilience assessment index for use in rural and remote communities. The index was generated as part of the Rural Disaster Resilience Project.

view more

Like a Fish Out of Water: Reconsidering Disaster Recovery and the Role of Place and Social Capital in Community Disaster Resilience

American Journal of Community Psychology

2011 In this paper we draw on the findings of a critical, multi-sited ethnographic study of two rural communities affected by a wildfire in British Columbia, Canada to examine the salience of place, identity, and social capital to the disaster recovery process and community disaster resilience. We argue that a reconfiguration of disaster recovery is required that more meaningfully considers the role of place in the disaster recovery process and opens up the space for a more reflective and intentional consideration of the disorientation and disruption associated with disasters and our organized response to that disorientation.

view more

Sequestering of Suffering: Critical Discourse Analysis of Natural Disaster Media Coverage

Journal of Health Psychology

2008 This article is a critical discourse analysis of the local print-news media coverage of the recovery process in two rural communities following a devastating forest fire. Two hundred and fifty fire-related articles from the North Thompson Star Journal (2003) were analyzed.

view more

Capacity building approaches to emergency management in rural communities: recommendations from survivors of the British Columbia Wildfires, 2003

International Journal of Emergency Management

2007 This paper responds to the ongoing calls within emergency management for more community-driven and capacity building approaches to the response to and recovery from natural disasters. Moving from the rhetoric of community-driven approaches to the practice, this paper highlights and draws on specific practice recommendations made by residents in two rural Canadian communities affected by a devastating forest fire.

view more

Career-community development: a framework for career counseling and capacity building in rural communities

Journal of Employment Counseling

2005 The authors propose a framework for career counseling in rural communities that addresses the psychosocial and economic challenges of natural disasters and other catastrophic transitions. The career-community development framework expands the notion of “client” to include a community-as-client approach within a capacity building orientation to supporting workers in the wake of large-scale disruptions.

view more

Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience: A Multi-Site Arts-Based Youth Engagement Research Project

Children, Youth, Environments


Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience: A Multi-Site Arts-Based Youth Engagement Research Project Author(s): Sarah Fletcher, Robin S. Cox, Leila Scannell, Cheryl Heykoop, Jennifer Tobin- Gurley and Lori Peek Source: Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 26, No. 1 (2016), pp. 148-163 Published by: University of Cincinnati Stable URL: Accessed: 15-06-2016 15:33 UTC Abstract Youth have historically been understudied in disaster research and largely excluded in practice. Yet, a growing body of evidence suggests that they want to be actively engaged, and when they are, can contribute in myriad ways to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery processes. This field report describes the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery and Resilience (YCDR2) project—a Canadian- United States applied research initiative aimed at learning from and with youth ages 13-22 about their disaster experiences. The project used creative and arts-based methods to engage youth in participatory workshops held in disaster-affected communities. Key findings, research and implementation challenges, successes, and lessons learned are discussed.

view more

Engaging Youth in Post-Disaster Research Lessons learned from a creative methods approach

International Journal of Community Research and Engagement


Peek, L., Tobin-Gurley, J., Cox, Robin S., Scannell, L., Fletcher, S., and Heykoop, C. Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience (YCDR2) is a cross- border initiative aimed at learning from and with disaster-affected youth 13 to 22 years of age in Joplin, Missouri, in the United States, and Slave Lake, Calgary and High River, Alberta, in Canada. Each of these communities experienced major disasters and were in the early stages of recovery when they were selected for this study. Working with local partners in each community, YCDR2 faculty and students engaged youth in experiential and arts-based workshops to explore their stories of recovery and resilience. The questions framing this research project focused on the people, places, spaces and activities that helped or hindered the recovery process for youth and their peers. Beyond the practical and theoretical advances of the work, which are described elsewhere (Cox,et al. 2016; Fletcher et al. 2016), the project offers a number of methodological contributions and lessons learned about community and youth engagement and processes that simultaneously highlight the capacities of youth, generate data, and provide novel options for knowledge mobilisation in disaster research and practice. This article, therefore, describes the YCDR2 engagement and research process and elaborates on the opportunities and challenges associated with establishing youth-community-academic partnerships in post- disaster contexts.

view more

Understanding Youth Disaster Recovery: The Vital Role of People, Places, and Activities

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction


Highlights • Youth's lived experiences of disasters are relatively under-examined. • Youth from four communities shared perspectives on disaster recovery using arts-based methods. • Key people aided their recovery though instrumental, emotional, and companionship support. • Youth identified places that supported their recovery by satisfying psychological needs. • Youth identified a range of activities and the means through which they aided in their recovery. Abstract As disasters escalate in frequency and severity, children and youth are among those most at risk for resulting adverse psychological, social, health, and educational effects. Although there is growing interest in the vulnerabilities and capacities of youth who have experienced disaster, research focusing on their lived experiences during the recovery period remains sparse. In response to this knowledge gap, youth between the ages of 13–22 were invited to participate in workshops spanning one to four days, where they used art, music, photography, videography, and other means to articulate their experiences of post-disaster recovery. The research took place in four disaster-affected communities in the United States and Canada, including Joplin, Slave Lake, Calgary, and High River. Youth stories revealed key people, places, and activities that supported their recovery, and the mechanisms through which those supports had a positive impact. Examining youth perspectives is important to concretize and contextualize theories of disaster recover

view more