Joy Santiago
Credit: Joy Santiago
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Joy Santiago settled into the field of geography because of the fascinating way it connected far-reaching topics in ecology, communications, technology, and sociology.

“Geography is kind of a jack-of-all-trades,” Santiago said. She became particularly interested in urban planning and the use of geographic information systems (GIS) to make maps. After graduating from the University of the Philippines with her bachelor’s degree, she got a job providing technical assistance to users of mapping software.

Two years later, an opportunity arose for her to enter academia, and Santiago became a researcher at Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), the flagship program of the Philippines for disaster risk reduction, later institutionalized as the University of the Philippines (UP) NOAH Center, which is the core component of the UP Resilience Institute. The Resilience Institute is dedicated to “providing Filipinos with innovative information vital to lifesaving climate change actions and disaster risk reduction efforts” and is a multidisciplinary hub for science, technology, arts, and humanities.

Santiago has moved up through the ranks, first to a supervisory role and then to her current position as a chief scientific research specialist. She and her colleagues work with local governments, performing hazard simulations and risk assessments. As a registered environmental planner, Santiago uses this information to guide local officials on development and land use.

“I have the satisfaction of helping the Filipino people,” she said.

The NOAH team interacts directly with local communities, including helping people understand hazards in their neighborhoods. “We’ll have tabletop activities where they draw parts of their community, and then afterwards we’ll present the hazard maps,” said Santiago. In one instance, Santiago and her coworker Jake Mendoza volunteered with an AGU Thriving Earth Exchange project involving island communities in Manila Bay. Santiago created maps to help the communities assess potential impacts of a proposed airport development.

Santiago is currently pursuing a master’s degree and hopes to pursue a doctorate to secure her voice in the academic community.

Santiago encourages audiences to learn more about the Resilience Institute’s activities on Facebook or Twitter.

This profile is part of a special series in our September 2021 issue on science careers.

—Jack Lee, Science Writer


Lee, J. (2021), Joy Santiago: Charting safety through mapmaking, Eos, 102, Published on 24 August 2021.

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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