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Building an earthquake resilient nation: the role of workplaces

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 23 December 2022
Academic background
Health Sciences, Humanities
Host campus
Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin), Centre for Sustainability
Dr Rebbecca Lilley, Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston


This doctoral research project will investigate workplace resilience, and collective workplace preparedness for earthquake events in New Zealand. Of particular focus is the role of businesses in emergency preparation, hazard management and response, and the challenges and opportunities presented by enhancing collaboration, communication and effort in this space. We seek an applied, interdisciplinary research candidate with exceptional communication skills, and prior research knowledge in Public Health to join our dynamic research team in New Zealand.

The successful candidate will work closely within QuakeCoRE’s Disciplinary Theme 4: Cultural and Social Factors Shaping Resilience research programme. The aims of QuakeCoRE are to advance the science and implementation pathways of earthquake resilience through system-level science with highly integrated collaborations coordinated across the physical, engineering, and social sciences, well as relevant research institutions. For more information visit the QuakeCoRE website:

QuakeCoRE – NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience

This project will build upon knowledge about resilient communities in New Zealand, across the continuum of hazard risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery with a particular focus on workplace settings. Building on QuakeCoRE research on the Canterbury earthquakes, the research will investigate pre- and post-disaster workplace resilience in a range of workplace settings in large urban, secondary urban and rural areas. The project will sit outside the traditional setting of the emergency preparation and response sector to consider the opportunities afforded by population focused safety legislation, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act (2016), to protect worker and the public-at-large from risks to health, safety and well-being generated by earthquakes occurring in a diverse range of work settings.

This three-year project will focus on identifying the opportunities and challenges for New Zealand workplaces to improve the safety of workers and workplace visitors before, during and after earthquake events. This project will likely involve a co-creation approach involving worker groups, businesses, and government agencies. The theoretical framing for the research will utilise public health frameworks, including te Tiriti o Waitangi, to examine work-related determinants of vulnerability to earthquake risks to inform workplace efforts to reduce the risk of fatal and non-fatal injury and maintain health and wellbeing before, during, and after earthquake events.

The successful candidate will be funded by QuakeCoRE for three years (March 2023–March 2026).

The student will be based at the University of Otago, and will have supervisory and advisory support from within the QuakeCoRE team as required. They will join a supportive, engaged and dynamic cross-disciplinary team of scientists and practitioners, including a team of other doctoral students working in related fields.

It is anticipated that this research will begin as soon as an appropriate candidate has been identified, no later than 1 March 2023.

Value and tenure

  • If successful, the QuakeCORE scholarship includes a NZ$30,696 stipend (tax free) plus a tuition fee waiver of up to NZ$8,800 per annum for three years.
  • This project will span March 2023–March 2026 (inclusive).
  • The recipient will be supervised by Dr Rebbecca Lilley at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine with co-supervision by Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston at the Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) and other appropriate individuals once the topic has been confirmed.
  • Both the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and Centre for Sustainability have reputations for providing excellent pastoral care and support for their graduate students.

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Centre for Sustainability

Applicant eligibility

This PhD scholarship is open to domestic and international candidates. Note international students are eligible to pay domestic fees if they are living in New Zealand with the appropriate student visa.

Fees – international students

For all students, please note you will need to have an excellent GPA and English writing and communication skills to apply.

It is a prerequisite that applicants have a master's qualification in a relevant discipline with a research thesis component which totals ~30% of their overall master's grade. Inter-disciplinary skills are encouraged, including: public health, health or social science, or planning.

How to apply

Applicants should submit an email to Dr Rebbecca Lilley that includes:

  • A full curriculum vitae;
  • Academic transcript;
  • Contact details and supporting letters of two academic referees;
  • An example of your best written work (e.g. a chapter of master's thesis, or a published journal article);
  • One A4 page cover letter outlining your interest in the topic, and why you would like to be considered for this scholarship.

The closing date for applications is 22 December 2022. Short-listed applicants will be invited to an interview either in person or online to discuss their application.

Please email your application to:

Dr Rebbecca Lilley


Dr Rebbecca Lilley
Tel   +64 3 479 7230