Headshot of Tom Safford

Thomas Safford

Phone: (603) 862-1876
Office: Sociology, McConnell Hall Rm 345C, Durham, NH 03824

My research program focuses on understanding the social bases of environmental attitudes and beliefs, perceptions of science and scientists, and analyzing inter-organizational relationships among public and private sector actors engaged in environmental management. I have conducted applied sociological research and developed methods for integrating social, natural, and physical science data to support policy-making and natural resource management in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the USDA Rural Development Program. I was a principal investigator on the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded New England Sustainability Consortium Project that investigated how social and institutional factors affect scientific engagement in coastal management in New England. Currently, I am exploring how public perceptions of science and scientific practice affect policy debates such as those related to climate change, ocean and fisheries management, and global health pandemics. In addition to my work in the United States, I am collaborating with colleagues in Brazil and Ecuador to investigate water management and the social and economic implications of climate change in the Amazon Basin. Prior to coming to UNH, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the NOAA Coastal Services Center and NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and a USAID Population and Environment Fellow working with Pathfinder International in Salvador, Brazil. More recently, I was a Fulbright Scholar at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil in 2014-2015.

Courses Taught

  • IA 701: Exploring Intl Challenges
  • SOC 400: Introductory Sociology
  • SOC 665: Environmental Sociology
  • SOC 693: Global Social Change
  • SOC 730/830: Communities & the Environment
  • SOC 799H: Senior Honors Thesis
  • SOC 999: Doctoral Research


  • Ph.D., Development Sociology, Cornell University
  • M.A., Latin American Studies, Stanford University
  • B.A., Political Science & Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research Interests

  • Applied Sociology
  • Applied; qualitative methods
  • Coastal Environment
  • Environmental Planning/Policy
  • Ethics/Values in Science and Technology
  • Globalization
  • International Affairs
  • International Planning/Policy
  • International political economy
  • International/Global Development
  • Marine Environment
  • Natural Resources Management
  • Organizational, environmental, science and technology
  • Social Change
  • Sociology
  • Sociology of Science

Selected Publications

  • Safford, T. G., Whitmore, E. H., & Hamilton, L. C. (2020). Questioning scientific practice: linking beliefs about scientists, science agencies, and climate change. ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY, 6(2), 194-206. doi:10.1080/23251042.2019.1696008

  • Safford, T. G., Vieira, P. F., & Polette, M. (2019). Scientific engagement and the development of marine aquaculture in Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. OCEAN & COASTAL MANAGEMENT, 178. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.104840

  • Safford, T. G., Hamilton, L., & Whitmore, E. (2017). The Zika Virus Threat: How Concerns about Scientists May Undermine Efforts to Combat the Pandemic. (Iss. 49, pp. 1-6). Durham, NH: Carsey School of Public Policy. Retrieved from https://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1298&context=carsey

  • Hamilton, L. C., Wake, C. P., Hartter, J., Safford, T. G., & Puchlopek, A. J. (2016). Flood Realities, Perceptions and the Depth of Divisions on Climate. SOCIOLOGY-THE JOURNAL OF THE BRITISH SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, 50(5), 913-933. doi:10.1177/0038038516648547

  • Norman, K. C., Safford, T. G., Feist, B. E., & Henly, M. (2016). At the Confluence of Data Streams: Mapping Paired Social and Biophysical Landscapes on the Puget Sound's Edge. COASTAL MANAGEMENT, 44(5), 427-440. doi:10.1080/08920753.2016.1208038

  • Hamilton, L. C., Hartter, J., Lemcke-Stampone, M., Moore, D. W., & Safford, T. G. (2015). Tracking Public Beliefs About Anthropogenic Climate Change. PLOS ONE, 10(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138208

  • Hamilton, L. C., & Safford, T. G. (2015). Environmental Views from the Coast: Public Concern about Local to Global Marine Issues. SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES, 28(1), 57-74. doi:10.1080/08941920.2014.933926

  • Safford, T. G., Henly, M., Ulrich-Schad, J. D., & Perkins, K. (2014). Charting a Future Course for Development: Natural Resources, Conservation, and Community Character in Coastal Alaska.. Journal of Rural and Community Development, 9(3), 22-41. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/

  • Safford, T. G., Norman, K. C., Henly, M., Mills, K. E., & Levin, P. S. (2014). Environmental Awareness and Public Support for Protecting and Restoring Puget Sound. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 53(4), 757-768. doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0236-8

  • Safford, T. G., Ulrich, J. D., & Hamilton, L. C. (2012). Public perceptions of the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Personal experiences, information sources, and social context. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 113, 31-39. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.08.022

  • Safford, T. G., & Ioris, A. A. R. (2012). Organizational Complexity and Stakeholder Engagement in the Management of the Pantanal Wetland. In TROPICAL WETLAND MANAGEMENT: THE SOUTH-AMERICAN PANTANAL AND THE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE (pp. 173-198). Retrieved from https://www.webofscience.com/

  • Safford, T. G. (2010). The Political-Technical Divide and Collaborative Management in Brazil's Taquari Basin. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENT & DEVELOPMENT, 19(1), 68-90. doi:10.1177/1070496509355275