A. Opdyke (Aaron)

About Me

I am a Guest Researcher at the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) and a Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian Engineering at the University of Sydney in Australia. My research seeks to improve global disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. My work focuses on sheltering and housing in crises, participatory methods of understanding and managing risk, and system approaches for sustainable development.


My research in humanitarian engineering focuses on the interface of infrastructure and social systems, examining this nexus in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation of the built environment. Humanitarian engineering addresses basic needs with disadvantaged, marginalised, or vulnerable communities by developing socially and culturally appropriate engineered solutions. I use interdisciplinary methods in field-based studies that draw upon close collaborations with international organisations to address complex global development challenges.

Central to my research is the study of humanitarian and development practice in the face of emerging challenges such as urbanization and climate change. I'm interested in exploring how the co-production of knowledge with communities can influence the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction and infrastructure solutions. My research has included collaborations in the Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti, Nepal, the Middle East and North Africa region, and Australia.

My work seeks to consolidate a research agenda for the humanitarian shelter and settlements field and unpack how households form knowledge of safer housing building practices after disasters and conflict. For example, in the Philippines I have examined humanitarian assistance programs to understanding how household participation in post-disaster recovery influences safer housing construction outcomes. My work has demarcated how households’ involvement and contributions map to project delivery (planning, design, and construction) and offering nuanced understanding when and how these factors impact both social and engineered outcomes. This research has been significant to understanding the social and organisational processes that shape engineered outcomes. I have also examined the technical messages that are communicated to households rebuilding their homes after disasters and has been used to inform ‘build back safer’ messaging employed by humanitarian organisations.

I am interested in how the intersection of local and scientific knowledge can build disaster resilience. I have developed new methods and participatory tools to assess the determinants of disaster risk that span from local to national scales. My recent work in the Philippines developed the first municipal-scale measure for housing vulnerability to typhoons, identified typhoon mortality drivers, and validated a national social vulnerability index.

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Contact Details

Visiting Address

University of Twente
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede
The Netherlands

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Mailing Address

University of Twente
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

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