Melissa O. Tier

STEP Ph.D. Student

Melissa Oberon Tier began her PhD in 2020, and is pursuing research on multi-level climate adaptation governance. Drawing on interdisciplinary methods from political science, behavioral science, environmental justice, and urban planning, her work explores how transformative climate adaptation policy concurrently develops (or is stymied) across scales. More specifically, she examines plans for and recovery from extreme weather events (particularly floods and heatwaves), with cross-national work in urban locales in the U.S., Germany, and South Korea. For example, she is exploring climate relocation policy preferences and differing conceptualizations of equity-based policy attributes via quantitative survey methodology. She is also qualitatively assessing multi-level and transformative climate adaptation government strategies.

In her U.S. work, Melissa has partnered regularly with local governments, community organizations, and regional academics in NJ, NY, and PA. She has worked extensively, for example, on climate adaptation research with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice – and is co-designing an environmental justice course with the Prison Teaching Initiative at Princeton. She is also an active member of the following regional research centers and networks: the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (Rutgers); the Environmental Justice & Climate Just Cities Network (Columbia); the Resilient Coastal Communities Project (Columbia); and the Climate Mobility Network (Columbia). At Princeton, she is advised by Dr. Elke Weber and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, and is a member of the Behavioral Science for Policy Lab and the Center for Policy Research on Energy & the Environment.

Melissa also pursues two additional topics in her research, teaching, and praxis. First, she is interested in environmentally-just waste management and the abolition of toxic waste siting – and has been involved in anti-incineration campaigns, local composting program development, and zero waste education. Second, she is also fascinated by the dynamics of international climate negotiations, and has taught and led university observer delegations to the annual UNFCCC COP.

Before joining the Princeton community, Melissa served for 5 years as the first Sustainability Program Manager at Swarthmore College, PA, helping to launch the Office of Sustainability and to facilitate institutional decision-making in the face of the climate crisis. Additionally, she spearheaded myriad initiatives related to zero waste and environmental justice, climate science communication, engagement with international climate negotiations, and local community partnerships. She holds an MSc in Sustainable Urban Development from the University of Oxford and a BA in Psychology from Swarthmore.