CERi Funding Program Spotlight: Yu-Yen Pan

July 05, 2022

By Steven Ta


We are excited to feature CERi’s Funding Program recipient Yu-Yen Pan, who received a $5,000 grant in the Spring of 2021 for her research project titled Effective Communication Methods During a Natural Hazard Emergency: Village of Pemberton Case Study. Yu-Yen Pan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at SFU.

Studying in Taiwan, Pan pursued her master’s degree and developed a passion for helping to educate children about geology. Through the creation of her YouTube channel, she began to create videos documenting her work and educating viewers about the earth sciences. After earning her master’s degree, Pan decided to conduct community-engaged research after being inspired by her passion for teaching others.

Pan’s research project evaluates the effectiveness of the channels of emergency communication and level of preparedness in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) in British Columbia. Initially, Pan’s project focused on the village of Pemberton but expanded to include the entire SLRD. She collected data through an online survey prompting participants to give their feedback on how effective government communication about natural hazard emergencies was. The survey was created in collaboration with the Stewardship Pemberton Society, local emergency managers as well as some of Pan’s colleagues.

The results of Pan’s survey were illuminating. The residents of the SLRD were found to be more prepared than the average BC resident in terms of natural hazard preparedness where 55% of the participants had things such as emergency kits and grab-and-go bags compared to 37% of people in BC. The majority of residents were also well aware of the natural hazards that existed in their region and reported that they would comply with any government-issued orders to evacuate.

The main issue found with the SLRD’s natural hazard communication was with the complexity of the map designs. Many participants reported that the maps were extremely hard to read and would prefer a simpler design. While supports systems are in place, some people are not aware of the support they are entitled to or feel it is difficult to find that information. Participants also think that government should better communicate “severity and consequence of the hazards”. In order filter out the main issue, Pan will conduct interviews in the close future.

It is really interesting, although the residents are so familiar with the natural hazards and are so willing to cooperate, there are still many things they would like to see improved - Pan said.

Being new to community-engaged work, Pan found that it took some time to understand the methods in this kind of research but that it was also uniquely rewarding. Being from Taiwan, Pan felt that it was difficult to navigate between being an outsider in often tight-knit communities and working with the community to achieve their goals.

The thing about community-engaged research is that there is more risk involved compared to doing a strictly scientific study. If I take a sample from a mountain and something goes wrong, I can always go back for another sample, but when working with the community, there is always the risk of losing their trust - Pan said.

Reflecting on her project, Pan remarked that there were many things in her project she could improve. The process of conducting her research allowed her to learn about what it takes to conduct community-engaged research.

“Community engagement is really important, and although it is stressful, I’m happy that I am still doing it. This is the only way we can know what the community needs and what research needs to be done instead of scientists just happily doing whatever they want.”

After the completion of her project, Pan is determined to continue to conduct community-engaged work and incorporate all of the new knowledge she has acquired.

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