I am working on understanding how coastal communities on the west coast of the US are affected by climate impacts on fisheries. More specifically, I look at how individuals in those communities perceive the risks to their wellbeing and/or food security because of those impacts and what they think about their ability to adapt to any changes.

I’m originally from the suburbs of Chicago, very far from the ocean! But I always loved the water and made my way from the lakes of the Midwest to the east coast where I majored in biology at Dartmouth College. I was interested in environmental education and started working for boat-based marine science education programs after graduation. That experience cemented my interest in marine science and eventually I came to UW to focus on human interactions with the marine environment.

“I love the ocean and coasts and am glad that I am able to do applied research in that environment that has the potential to support coastal communities.”

— Laura Nelson

Climate change is already having an affect on coastal communities and there is a real need to identify areas of resilience and support community wellbeing.

Individuals perceive and experience the effects of climate change differently, and that can affect how people feel about policies and their ability to adapt.

When climate vulnerability assessments are conducted, often things like community wellbeing and perceptions of change are overlooked. We are working to address that gap on the west coast of the US by working to understand individuals’ perceptions of how the environment and their wellbeing may be affected by climate change. We hope that these perceptions of vulnerability can provide a compliment to empirical assessments, ultimately helping to provide a richer picture of possible pathways to enhance adaptive capacity and reduce risks.

There is a light at the end of the grad school tunnel.

Learn more about the TNC-UW Partnership

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