Melissa L. Finucane

Senior Social and Behavioral Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in psychology, University of Western Australia

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

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Melissa Finucane is a senior social and behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and a Pardee RAND Graduate School professor. Also a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i, her interdisciplinary and policy-oriented research focuses on understanding the human dimensions of environmental health risks.

She is director of the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities, funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. This integrated program of research and outreach aims to assess and address community impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Finucane is co-investigator with the NOAA-funded Mid-Atlantic Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (MARISA) program, which aims to support decisionmakers in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic states to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change. MARISA will assess and address climate-sensitive issues such as flooding, fresh water management, coastal infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

Finucane is also co-investigator with the Pacific RISA program, which aims to support Pacific Island communities to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change (related to fresh water resources, coastal erosion, and military infrastructure). Finucane is a co-editor and chapter author for the 2012 Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) report and lead author for the Pacific Islands Region chapter in the 2014 report for the National Climate Assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Finucane's NSF-funded research examines the relationship between modernization and perceived risk of avian influenza in Vietnam.

She received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Western Australia and has 20 years of experience working with many different communities around the world.

Recent Projects

  • Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities
  • Evaluating the Impact of Decision-Support Interventions on Major Climate-Sensitive Decisions in Urban Regions
  • Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments
  • Mapping the Flow of Climate and Water Resource Information in the Pacific Islands
  • CNH: Coupled Natural-Human Systems and Emerging Infectious Diseases


  • woman carrying umbrella looking up at sky

    Weather Forecasts, and Our Trust in Them, Need to Improve

    When scientists predict extreme weather that never materializes, lay people tend to wonder what went wrong. This is a natural tendency that is not tied to a failure of the science, but rather to differences in the way scientists and lay people view predictions about extreme events.

    Oct 8, 2013 The Star-Ledger

  • A mother on Staten Island straps a protective mask onto her baby after Hurricane Sandy

    Removing Road Blocks to Climate Change Adaptation Planning

    Despite increasing interest and investments in climate adaptation science, the implementation of adaptation plans through institutional policies or other actions designed to reduce health vulnerabilities has been slow. Institutionalized assumptions are an important roadblock.

    Oct 3, 2013 The RAND Blog