Checking biodiversity on the northwest coast

Atkinson Center Faculty Fellow Katherine McComas (COMM) studies how people communicate about health, science, and environmental risks 

Communicating Health, Science, and Environmental Risks

April 11, 2013

Checking biodiversity on the northwest coast

Atkinson Center Faculty Fellow Katherine McComas (COMM) studies how people communicate about health, science, and environmental risks. Her research on community participation—especially through public meetings—provides real-world solutions for practitioners and citizens grappling with community decision making in the face of environmental risk.

Katherine McComasKatherine McComas (COMM)

McComas contributed to the development of Cornell’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) after receiving a small grant, awarded jointly by the Center and the Presidents Climate Commitment Implementation Committee (PCCIC), to study Ithaca community reactions to specific Climate Action Plan initiatives. Working with Faculty Fellow Richard Stedman (NTRES), she recommended strategies for public involvement and communication about conservation measures and alternative sources of energy that addressed the needs of Cornell and the surrounding community.

ACSF’s Rapid Response Fund (RRF) recently provided funding for McComas and an interdisciplinary team of communication specialists, economists, and ecologists to hire a postdoctoral fellow. The postdoc will focus on social and behavioral science elements of a newly funded NSF Research Coordination Network on the ecology of infectious marine disease, including public perceptions of threats to ocean health and marine life in Puget Sound.

McComas’s experience engaging the public on environmental issues makes her an invaluable member of ACSF’s Faculty Advisory Board (FAB). Currently serving as vice chair, she will chair the board beginning next fall.

“The FAB and ACSF have made Cornell a smaller place for me, as I’ve gotten to know people from across the campus. Sharing a commitment to a sustainable future leads to a feeling of teamwork and a practice of interdisciplinary collaboration perhaps unmatched at Cornell,” McComas said.