Melissa Tier

STEP Ph.D. Student

Melissa 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 U.S. climate adaptation action is concurrently developing across scales. More specifically, she is exploring the multi-level dimensions of U.S. natural hazard disaster planning and recovery, with deep dives into several local housing buyout/relocation programs as well as pre-disaster funding mechanisms from key federal agencies. She focuses her research primarily in three states (NJ, NY, PA), and partners regularly with local governments, community organizations, and regional academics. She has worked extensively, for example, on climate adaptation research with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice – and is also collaborating with the multi-institutional Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (funded by the NSF Coastlines & People Program and housed at Rutgers University). 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 waste management as an environmental justice issue – and has been involved in anti-incineration campaigns, composting program development, and zero waste research. 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 arriving at Princeton, 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, internal carbon pricing, engagement with international climate negotiations, climate science communication, and local community partnerships. She holds an MSc in Sustainable Urban Development from the University of Oxford and a BA in Psychology from Swarthmore.