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Katherine McComas

picture of Katherine McComas


461 Mann Library Building
(607) 255-7737

My research program examines how people communicate about health, science, and environmental risks. Such communication takes place in many venues -- from the front page of the New York Times, to the website of the CDC, to the local public meeting, to the doctor's office, to the visitors' center in our national parks. I am particularly interested in how risk communication influences people's attitudes and behaviors, as well as incentives and barriers people face in the context of risk communication.

Research Focus

My current research examines ways to develop risk messages that encourage greater awareness of the linkages between human, animal, and environmental health and well-being ("One Health"). It also focuses on public acceptability of risk in the context of new and renewable energy technologies.

Outreach and Extension Focus

My research often takes place in contexts related to risk and environmental decision making (e.g., Why do people attend public meetings about local environmental risks? Who do people trust for information about renewable energy?), and I enjoy sharing my results and discussing other relevant research with people outside of the classroom who want to learn more about risk communication.

Teaching Focus

For the undergraduate major, I teach Communication and the Environment, Risk Communication, and Community Involvement in Environmental Decisions. In the graduate curriculum, I teach Risk Communication and Advanced Communication and the Environment.

Awards and Honors

  • President (2018) Society for Risk Analysis
  • Councilor (2015) Society for Risk Analysis
  • Fellow (2014) Society for Risk Analysis
  • Advisory Committee Service Award (2010) U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Fellow (2009) Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Presentations and Activities

  • Scared Yet Compassionate? Exploring the Order Effects of Threat Versus Suffering Messages on Attitude Toward Scary Victims. International Communication Association Annual Meeting. May 2019. Washington DC.
  • When the Greatest Risk Lies in Not Trying New Things: A “Business Model” for Resiliency. SRA 5th World Congress. May 2019. Society for Risk Analysis. Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Communication challenges of the future: Recognition, reconciliation, and rewards. EFSA Conference on Science, Food, & Society. September 2018. European Food Safety Authority. Parma, Italy.
  • Communicating about One Health: Promoting Systems-Level Thinking in a Soundbite Culture. Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies Annual Conference. October 2017. Seoul, South Korea.
  • Motivations and Barriers in the Face of Risk Communication. The Royal Society Policy Salon. October 2017. The Royal Society. London, United Kingdom.
  • Troubled Waters: Risk Perception and the Case of Oyster Restoration in the Closed Waters of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. AEJMC 2017 Annual Conference. August 2017. Chicago, IL.
  • One Health messaging about bats and rabies: How framing of risks, benefits, and attributions can support public health and wildlife conservation goals. Society for Risk Analysis 2015 Annual Meeting. December 2015. Arlington, VA.
  • How do people think about marine health? Exploring motivated reasoning about the links between climate change, oyster disease, and human health. International Communication Association (ICA). May 2014. ICA. Seattle, WA.