There was an issue validating your request. Please try again later.

Jessica Brunacini

Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellow

Period of Service

2020 to 2023

Jessica successfully completed her fellowship at the Wells Reserve, then took a position as Coastal Community Resilience Extension Associate at Maine Sea Grant.

Bio (2020)

I am a PhD Candidate at Michigan State University, studying community sustainability and environmental policy. My research explores the role that public participation plays in decision-making about how to respond to the impacts of climate change. I work to understand the issues that coastal communities face when they are considering their options for responding to sea level rise, coastal erosion, and increased flooding.

Over the 2 years of my fellowship, I will investigate how public participation

  1. Currently operates in climate planning efforts
  2. Affects understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with developing coastal adaptation strategies and policies
  3. Builds resilience in social-ecological systems

This research will, I hope, shed light on effective practices for meaningfully engaging the public in making decisions about the future of their communities.


I started my PhD in the fall of 2017. My studies over the past 3 years have focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the social aspects of climate change adaptation policy and planning, including concerns about justice and equity. I have also worked to develop the skills needed to practice participatory research, which is an approach that seeks to do research with, not on, people in order to address real-world problems.

I hold an M.A. in Environmental Conservation Education from New York University and a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico. In addition to my academic training, I have more than a decade of professional experience in outreach and engagement, climate change research, and project management.

I started my career as an environmental educator, working with a variety of non-profits to design and deliver hands-on programming to learners of all ages throughout New York City. From there, I went on to co-develop a professional training program about population dynamics and climate change, which I helped pilot with officials in Lilongwe, Malawi. Most recently, I served as Assistant Director of the Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership, an interdisciplinary research project funded by the National Science Foundation to develop more effective models for engaging lifelong learners on the issue of climate change.

Among my experiences with PoLAR, my involvement in co-facilitating the Signs of the Land: Reaching Arctic Communities Facing Climate Change Camp project was particularly impactful. Developed by and for members of Alaska Native communities, the week-long camp wove together local observations, Indigenous Knowledge, and western science in order to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange around climate change.

In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, riding my bike, practicing yoga, and investigating local breweries. In addition to exploring the coast and indulging in local seafood, I am excited for the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from my research partners and the community in Wells!

Learn more about the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship Program.

← View all Staff