Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Leysia Palen

Second Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Third Advisor

Leslie Irvine

Fourth Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Fifth Advisor

Aleksandra Sarcevic


When making decisions about what to do in a disaster, people consider the welfare of their animals. Most people consider their pets to be "part of the family." There are more than 144 million pet dogs and cats in homes around the US, and Colorado is home to a $3 billion livestock industry. In emergency response, supporting the human-animal bond is one important way we can assist people in making good decisions about evacuation, and improve their ability to recover after the emergency period is over.

There is an opportunity to leverage social computing tools to support the information needs of people concerned with animals in disasters. This research uses three major studies to examine the information management and cooperative work done around animals in this domain: First, an online study of the response of animal advocates in the 2012 Hurricane Sandy event; second, a study bridging the online and offline response of equine experts following the 2013 Colorado floods; and third, an extended 22-month ethnographic study of the work done at animal evacuation sites, beginning with on-the-ground participant observation at two fairground evacuation sites during the Black Forest Fire in Southern Colorado in 2013, and including the design of two information support tools.

The research provides lessons about how information online, information offline, and the bridging of information in those arenas both supports and limits the potential for innovation in addressing the unusual and emergent ill-structured problems that are hallmarks of disaster response. The role of expertise as a vital resource in emergency response, and recommendations for policy improvements that appreciate the conscious inclusion of spontaneous volunteers are two contributions from this work.