Dr. Joy Waddell


Field of research

  • Disaster risk and resilience
  • Social-ecological systems and complexity
  • Anticipatory governance and disaster governance


Joy is a human geographer and disaster risk scientist who is interested in applying inclusive and collaborative governance thinking to enhance the resilience of people and ecosystems, particularly in the global South and contexts of deep informality and weak governance. Her research aims to understand how polycentric, anticipatory governance can strengthen the resilience of complex social-ecological systems in the face of climate change, disaster risk, and uncertainty. Her doctoral research at the University of Cape Town explored flood risk reduction in Cape Town’s informal settlements, aiming to identify the barriers and opportunities for a more inclusive disaster governance approach. Joy completed her MSc in Disasters, Adaptation, and Development at King’s College London, with a dissertation that explored how Cambodian children’s perceptions to disaster risk shape their responses. Joy has previously worked as a researcher with the CST on the USAID Resilient Waters Program, with the Research Alliance for Disaster and Risk Reduction (RADAR) at Stellenbosch University, and as a climate risk specialist at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) in Thailand.

Student research that Joy has supervised or continues to supervise includes:

  • Investigating the extent to which climate change adaptation is incorporated into mine closure and rehabilitation strategies in South Africa.
  • Exploring the socio-economic impact of oil spillage on the livelihoods of fisherwomen in the Niger Delta.
  • Exploring the role of food aid during the COVID-19 pandemic for building community resilience in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of community-based rural water supply systems in rural Namibia.
  • Investigating stakeholders’ perceptions on the use and management of transboundary water in the Limpopo River Basin.
  • Exploring fire risk preparedness in low-resourced schools in Stellenbosch, South Africa.