August 14, 2023

Kelsea Best Joins the Knowlton School City and Regional Planning Faculty

The assistant professor’s work examines how climate change and human societies intersect and the inequities in human adaptation to climate change.

Kelsea Best Joins the Knowlton School City and Regional Planning Faculty

Dr. Kelsea Best Headshot

Dr. Kelsea Best will join the Knowlton School as assistant professor in the City and Regional Planning Section beginning autumn 2023 and will hold a joint appointment with the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering.

Best’s research focuses on understanding how climate change interacts with human societies and infrastructure, how people may adapt to climate change effects, and how climate adaptation measures can be designed and implemented in a just and equitable way. Her work is highly interdisciplinary and strives to connect methods, disciplines, and researchers from across geographies and fields. Dr. Best’s research is grounded in data-driven methods including machine learning and agent-based modeling, but also seeks to advance conventional modeling approaches by expanding the role of personal narrative and community participation in informing computational models. Some of her current projects include modeling the role of cultural heritage in migration decisions under climate change, assessing renters’ vulnerability to natural disasters and implications for housing security, and identifying infrastructure needs for climate-migrant-receiving communities. 

Before coming to Knowlton, Best received her PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Vanderbilt University where she used agent-based modeling and machine learning to investigate how environmental stress and climate change interact with human migration decisions in coastal Bangladesh. While at Vanderbilt, she served as the PI on a multi-year, multi-institutional project funded by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) to identify climate gentrification patterns along the East Coast of the United States. Best was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland where she conducted research on the equity implications of natural hazards and disaster response in the U.S., including the disproportionate impacts of sea-level rise on vulnerable coastal populations and their mobility.

Best has served as a consultant for the U.S. State Department and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. She is currently a faculty board member of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Human Dimensions of Global Change specialty group and a contributing member of the AAG Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) working group. She also serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Justice, Equity, and Risk specialty group.