Melissa L. Finucane

Photo of Melissa Finucane
Senior Social and Behavioral Scientist
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in psychology, University of Western Australia

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Melissa Finucane is a senior social and behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation. Her interdisciplinary and policy-oriented research focuses on understanding the human dimensions of environmental health risks. 

Finucane is codirector of the RAND Climate Resilience Center, which supports innovative policy research and tool development to help decisionmakers at all levels address the impacts of climate change. She is also director of the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities, which aims to assess and address community impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

Finucane is principal investigator with the NOAA-funded Mid-Atlantic Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (MARISA) program, an interdiscipinary partnership supporting decisionmakers with climate-sensitive issues such as flooding, fresh water management, coastal infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

Her NSF-funded research examines the perceptions of and responses to environmental health risks among different demographic groups, including impoverished communities. She also has examined relationships among large-scale changes such as rapid modernization in Vietnam, perceptions of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and avian influenza, and on-the-ground tools for building community resilience. 

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

Recent Projects

  • Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities
  • Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments
  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments
  • Evolution of Public Risk Perception and Mental Models regarding COVID-19
  • Perceived Risk and Impacts of COVID-19 in Disinvested, Racially Isolated, Urban Neighborhoods


  • President Joe Biden speaks with Smith Flooring owners James and Kristin Smith at an event highlighting the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in Chester, Pennsylvania, March 16, 2021, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Promoting Social Equity in Infrastructure Planning and Delivery

    The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan propose to address racial inequities through significant infrastructure, workforce, education, and child care investments. Multiple barriers may need to be addressed for the funds to reach their intended destination.

    Jun 17, 2021 Inside Sources

  • A burning gum tree is felled to stop it from falling on a car in Corbago, as bushfires continue in New South Wales, Australia, January 5, 2020, photo by Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

    Australia's Fires: Respond Now, but Also Measure Toll on People for the Future

    As an Australian, Melissa Finucane has watched with anguish as massive bushfires devastated wide swaths of her home country. As a researcher who studies community resilience, she can't help but think of how much blood, sweat, tears, and money will be required to recover.

    Jan 20, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • A man walks among debris at the Mudd neighborhood, devastated after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 6, 2019, photo by Marco Bello/Reuters

    Hurricane Recovery in the Bahamas: Turning Good Intentions into Good Decisions

    Recovery in the Bahamas will have to be a balancing act. Plans will need to allow for transition toward long-term strategic goals for the nation, but also be mindful of not perpetuating inequities.

    Sep 6, 2019 The RAND Blog

  • Work crews on boats gather to clean marshland impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Barataria Bay of Louisiana, June 17, 2010.

    Overlapping Environmental Disasters Put a Strain on Gulf Communities

    For Gulf Coast residents, dealing with the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is challenging enough. With the Taylor Energy spill, they may face an even more daunting recovery, one that could take decades. Acknowledging the extent and complexity of recovery is the first step toward supporting coastal communities to build their resilience in the face of overlapping disasters.

    Nov 29, 2018

  • SFC Eladio Tirado, who is from Puerto Rico, speaks with residents as he helps during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria, in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, October 7, 2017

    How to Rebuild After This Year's Hurricane Season? Invest in Resilience

    Investing in resilience in an informed and systematic way can help a wide range of high-risk communities be better prepared for any future disasters.

    Nov 6, 2017 The RAND Blog

  • 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