Stephen Strader, PhD

Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment and Geography Program Director

Stephen Strader, PhD

A hazards geographer, meteorologist and geographic information systems analyst, Stephen Strader, PhD, is a trusted research partner and go-to authority for federal agencies, international scientific and professional organizations and national media outlets.

He takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding extreme weather and its societal impact, frequently collaborating with teams of meteorologists, emergency managers, engineers and social scientists. He employs techniques that span the social and physical sciences—from qualitative, survey-based research to remote sensing and the use of GIS data in advanced weather modeling.

The pivotal moment that led Dr. Strader to this robust career in research came in 2005, when a tornado with winds exceeding 158 mph swept through a mobile home park in his hometown of Evansville, Ind., destroying hundreds of homes and taking dozens of lives. In the 17 years since, Dr. Strader has been dedicated to exploring and improving the societal implications of extreme weather in a changing climate.

“One side of the coin is the science behind severe weather, which has connections to climate change, and the other is what’s happening in our built environment,” says Dr. Strader, associate professor of Geography and the Environment and Geography Program director. “Expanding cities with single-family homes, townhomes, apartments and condos creates more targets that can be hit by hail, tornadoes and flooding and puts more people in the path of destruction.”

Since arriving at Villanova, Dr. Strader has been awarded numerous federally funded research grants and published 15 papers in highly respected peer-reviewed journals. He is a sought-after speaker at national conferences for scientific groups and federal agencies, such as the American Meteorological Society and the American Association of Geographers, and he has provided expert commentary, often in the wake of catastrophic storms, to numerous national media outlets, including The New York Times, FOX Weather, CNN, NPR and USA Today.


Preparing for the Storm

Extreme weather events have taken the lives of nearly 1,000 Americans and caused roughly $150 billion in damages in the US in the last year alone. Dr. Strader works to supply government and industry stakeholders, policymakers and the public with the information necessary to mitigate this costly and deadly problem and build resilience in the face of rapid environmental and societal change.

As the principal investigator of a study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Strader researched the impact of tornadoes on mobile homes and how to reduce vulnerabilities and improve emergency response for mobile home residents in the Southeastern US, where these storms are especially frequent and deadly. The research provides insights into many factors that aim to improve safety during storms, including changes to manufacturing and building codes for mobile homes, land-planning policies and improved access to emergency shelters.

Dr. Strader has published these findings in several peer-reviewed journals and has presented at workshops around the US to improve preparedness for increasingly volatile weather conditions. That included serving on a National Weather Service integrated warning team in Alabama, where he shared this knowledge with federal, state and local emergency management agencies with the goal of reducing weather-related fatalities, injuries and property loss.