Thomas (Tom) D. Beamish

Thomas (Tom) Beamish Portrait

Position Title

2271 Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Ph.D., Sociology, UC Santa Barbara, 1999
  • M.A., Sociology, UC Santa Barbara, 1992
  • B.A., Sociology, Western Washington University, 1990
  • Minor, Social Psychology, Western Washington University, 1990


I am a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis, a research affiliate at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC), and currently a board member and a faculty affiliate of the UC Davis Designated Emphasis in Environmental Humanities. My research interests and expertise focus on risks & hazards, the environment, community politics & movements, and institutions, organizations, & economy. These interests have taken shape through studies of mass media and the anti-war movements, the petroleum industry and an oil spill disaster, technological innovation in the commercial construction and real estate industries, risk disputes and civic political conflict, and the political discourse and theatre that currently surrounds "public tragedies." Across my career, within these broad areas of interest, I have focused on the collective construction of rationality and how situated membership(s) in organizations, communities, and social movement groups shape interpretation, expectations, and preferences in significant ways.

The National Science Foundation, the California Energy Commission, the UC Toxics Research and Teaching Fellowship, and the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation are just some of the institutions that have funded my research. From my research, I have published three books, Silent Spill: The Organization of an Industrial Crisis (2002, MIT Press), Community at Risk: Biodefense and the Collective Search for Security (2015, Stanford University Press), and After Tragedy Strikes: Why Claims of Trauma and Loss Promote Public Outrage and Encourage Political Polarization (due out April 2024, University of California Press). I have also published in leading journals like The Journal of Social Problems, Annual Review of Sociology, The American Behavioral Scientist, Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy, and Organization and Environment, among others.

​Additional information on graduate studies at UC Davis, my research publications and ongoing projects, and my teaching, both graduate and undergraduate courses (see below), can be accessed using the provided jump links or by scrolling down within this webpage.

Research Focus

Risks and Hazards, The Environment, Community Politics and Social Movements; and Institutions, Organizations, and Economy



Beamish, T.D. (2024) After Tragedy Strikes: Why Claims to Trauma and Loss Promote Public Outrage and Encourage Political Polarization. University of California Press: Berkeley CA.

Beamish, T.D. (2015) Community at Risk? Biodefense and the Collective Search for Security. Stanford University Press: Palo Alto, CA.

Beamish, T. D. (2002) Silent Spill: The Organization of an Industrial Crisis. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.


Beamish T. D. (2023) “Guadalupe Dunes Oil Spill: The Silent Spill.” The Encyclopedia of Technological Hazards and Disasters in the Social Sciences. In Duane A. Gill, Liesel A. Ritchie, and Nnenia Campbell eds. (2023) Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

Beamish T. D. (2018) “Risk, Crisis, and Organizational Failure: Toward a Post-Rationalist View.” Chapter 6 in Robert P. Gephart, Chet Miller and Karin Svedberg Helgesson (eds.). Routledge Companion to Risk, Crisis and Emergency Management. Submitted (2018) pp. 87-107.

Beamish T. D., & Biggart, N. W. (2017) Capital and Carbon: The Shifting Common Good Justification of Energy Regimes. Research in the Sociology of Organizations.

Beamish, T.D., Niemeier, D. A., & Grattet, R. (2017) Climate Change and Legitimate Governance: Land Use and Transportation Law and Policy in California. Brooklyn Law Review. Volume 82, Number 2.

Niemeier, D., Grattet, R., & Beamish, T. D. (2015) Blueprinting for climate change? When the Promise of Regional Transportation and Land Use Planning Outruns Performance Outcomes. Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy. Volume 17, pp. 1600-1617.

Beamish, T. D., & Luebbers, A. J. (2009) Alliance-building across social movements: Bridging Difference in a Peace and Justice Coalition. Social Problems. (2009) November, Volume 56, Number 4.

Beamish, T. D. (2007) Economic Sociology in the Next Decade and Beyond. American Behavioral Scientist. Vol. 50, No. 8, 993-1014.

Beamish, T. D., & Biggart, N. W. (2003) The Economic Sociology of Conventions: Habit, Custom, Practice and Routine in Market Order. Annual Review of Sociology. Volume 29, pp. 443–64.


Professor Beamish teaches courses at UC Davis in Sociology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels focused on Society and Environment (SOC295 & SOC160), Organizational Studies (SOC280 & SOC180A),and Collective Behavior/Collective Action & Social Movement (SOC148).


2015 Dean's Innovation Award for exceptional innovation in research and scholarship, College of Letters and Science, Division of Social Sciences, University of California, Davis.

2014 Mentoring Award, Mentorships for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters, and Science (MURALS). Office of Student Affairs, College of Letters and Science, University of California, Davis.

2012/2013 Environmental Governance and Climate Change.(Co-organizer w/ Debbie A. Niemeier and Ryken Grattet) National Science Foundation, Grant Number #1244252, Law and Social Sciences Directorate, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.

2005-2009 Grant recipient, “Biosafety or Biohazard: Organizational Pursuit and Community Response to a Safety and Preparedness Initiative.” National Science Foundation. Grant Number #0509812, Division of Civic, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation, Subsection Infrastructural Systems Management and Hazard Response, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.

2003-2005 NSF Fellow, Hazards and Disaster Research Fellowship Program, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA. (see

2004 Excellence in Education Award. Associated Students, Academic Affairs Commission, University of California, Davis.

2000 Best Dissertation of 2000, “Silent Spill.” Dissertation Competition, Organizations and the Natural Environment, Academy of Management.