• J. Kenneth Mitchell
  • J. Kenneth Mitchell
  • Professor Emeritus
  • Phone: (848) 445-4082
  • Research Interests: human response to environmental hazards; environmental policy and planning; global environmental change Hazards Research page
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Degrees: (Ph.D., Chicago)
  • Emeritus Faculty

current research projects

fax: 732 445 0006


1967-70 University of Chicago, Ph.D. (Geography) (1973)
1965-67 University of Cincinnati, M.A. (Geography)
M.C.P. (Community Planning)
1961-65 Queens University, Belfast, B.Sc. (Hons) (Geography)

Before retiring from teaching in January 2016 Ken had completed 45 years of service at Rutgers University, conducted field research on human dimensions of natural hazards in North America, Europe, East Asia and Australia, and authored more than 140 professional publications. (See accompanying curriculum vitae).  Among other activities during that time, he chaired the National Academy of Science’s ad hoc Committee on the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and the International Geographical Union’s Study Group on the Disaster Vulnerability of Megacities. He is a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, a member of the International Research Committee on Disasters, and founder of the international journals Global Environmental Change and Environmental Hazards.  Ken has also served on science and public policy advisory bodies for hazards, especially in coastal and offshore marine environments, at state and federal levels in the United States and the United Nations system.             

The question at the heart of Ken’s work on hazards is: How can imperfect humans best engage a variable planet that is simultaneously limiting, enabling and indifferent?” This formulation encapsulates his efforts at engaging the triple constraints of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity in human relations with the physical world.  Almost all his published work addresses this bundle of topics although the contexts and substantive issues vary, with particular attention to megacities, storms and floods.             

After a digression during the 1970s into the field of coastal and marine zone management, that included stints as an Expert Witness in Federal Court cases involving the offshore oil and gas industry and a term as Chair of the U.S. Scientific Committee on the Outer Continental Shelf (1979-1982), Ken resumed his early focus on natural hazards.  Within the past five years his publications include: the evolution of natural disasters in New Jersey during the 20th century; an assessment of risk governance in the world’s largest cities; an advocacy piece on an expanded role for natural hazards education in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Program; and scholarly papers on local recovery from Super Storm Sandy, the co-production of storm surge risk information, and critical infrastructure. Ken’s most recent completed research project was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Research Trusts and explores the novel utility of Health Impact Assessment in the process of post-disaster recovery.            

Commentaries on Ken’s work and that of his students can be found in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Extreme Events (Vol. 3, No.2) and a detailed statement on ways of reinvigorating the field of hazards research is forthcoming in the chapter “Growing the Constituency: A 21st century challenge,” in The New Environmental Crisis: Hazard, Disaster, and the Challenges Ahead, edited by James Kendra, Scott Gabriel Knowles and Tricia Wachtendorf.