Our People

Associate Student
Key interests:


Cathy was recently awarded her PhD by the University of Western Australia. With a background in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) application, Geovisualisation and spatial modeling, Cathy’s project was focused on the design of a WebGIS-based information communication model for effective early warning of bushfire emergencies to the general public. Her PhD studies were supported by the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Postgraduate Award and the former Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Australia.

With a rising interest in disaster management, Cathy has become a trained volunteer at MAPS-WA, a Western Australia based unit to provide mapping support to emergency service responders. She is also passionate in teaching, and has been engaged in tutoring and lecturing various GIS, cartography and research methods units at UWA.

Student project

This project focused on exploring a method to communicate bushfire risk-related information to households during a bushfire by harnessing prevailing spatial technologies, such as GIS. Its aim was to help residents perceive their own risk more accurately and make better decisions under stress. A web-mapping tool is in prototype. This study provides an important step forward in exploiting GIS technologies for location-based, personalised public warnings, in order to substantially facilitate the perception of personal related risk and decision-making at the household level.
Supervisory panel:
Year Type Citation
2017 Journal Article Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. M. The smoke is rising but where is the fire? Exploring effective online map design for wildfire warnings. Natural Hazards 88, 1473-1501 (2017).
2017 Journal Article Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. M. Towards personalised public warnings: harnessing technological advancements to promote better individual decision-making in the face of disasters. International Journal of Digital Earth (2017). doi:10.1080/17538947.2017.1302007
2016 Journal Article Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. M. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Evaluating the effectiveness of maps for delivering wildfire warning information. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 19, 179-196 (2016).
2015 Journal Article Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. M. Defining Sufficient Household Preparedness for Active Wildfire Defense: Toward an Australian Baseline. Natural Hazards Review 10, (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. Mapping it out: a user-centred design framework for WebGIS public warnings - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2013 Report Cao, Y., Boruff, B. J. & McNeill, I. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Defining the Preparatory Conditions in Support of Active Defence for Different Fire Danger Ratings. 2013 Research Forum (2013). at <http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/cao_y.pdf>