‘I Study the Ways Society Is Adapting to a Changing Climate’: Meet Climate Scientist Lisa Dale

Meet Columbia Climate School's Lisa Dale, a political scientist who studies how policies, both domestic and international, might help us live more sustainable lives.

February 21, 2023

Lisa Dale is a Columbia Climate School lecturer and co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development.

University Photographer Eileen Barroso came across Lisa on campus and grabbed a few photos for our recurring Instagram series #ColumbiaStories.

Where is your hometown?

Born in NYC, grew up in Westchester County, moved out to Colorado after college and stayed there for 25 years. Now I’m back full circle.

What is your favorite place on campus?

Can I vote twice? I love Buell Hall on Morningside Campus for events. And I love Joe’s Coffee – all of them! – for, well, coffee.

What is your favorite place in New York City?

Impossible question! The North Woods in Central Park always gives me a jolt of nature when I need one.

What kind of research do you do?

As a political scientist, I study the ways society is adapting to a changing climate, and ask about how policies might help smooth that transition. Right now I have two different projects that approach the question from very different places. Domestically, I study wildfire policy in the American West, trying to understand which policies are most effective at reducing wildfire risk to communities. Internationally, I study rural communities in Rwanda, exploring how national resettlement policies may foster better climate adaptation. Both projects give me opportunities to travel!

What do you hope others will learn from your research?

Perhaps we can productively channel our concern about climate change into practical strategies for adaptation. We need to bear in mind the vastly different circumstances facing communities around the world, identify current and projected impacts from climate change, and focus on solutions. The next generation will be leading the way!

What is your passion?

Swimming is one of my great passions! I swim in pools around NYC all year, and open water in the summer whenever possible.

#ColumbiaStories are photos taken by University Photographer Eileen Barroso as she selects Columbians to photograph across the university. You can find more on Instagram