Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Lisa Dilling

Research Interests

I am a Professor in the Environmental Studies program and Director of the Western Water Assessment program. My research focuses on understanding how society chooses to respond to environmental risks such as climate change. I use interdisciplinary, empirical methods to study questions such as how different views about the nature of risk affect the outcomes of decision processes. I am also interested in the tradeoffs involved in implementing new policies at the local scale and understanding how science can best support robust decision making in deeply uncertain contexts.  My work has recently focused on drought and urban water management, climate change and public lands, geoengineering, and municipal policies regarding natural hazards. My research addresses the following questions that are important for societally-robust decision making for climate change:

  • What is needed to build equitable societal resilience in changing social and environmental conditions?

  • What are the drivers of adaptation to extreme weather and climate?

  • What is the role of knowledge in building adaptive capacity for climate? 

  • How important are different elements of adaptive capacity, and how do they influence each other?

  • How do the dynamics of adaptation decision making play out on the ground and affect concepts of adaptation success and resilience?

  • How do we ensure energy decarbonization and climate change mitigation policies are effective, timely, and equitable?

View Publications

  • Page R; Dilling L. (Apr 2020). How experiences of climate extremes motivate adaptation among water managers. Climatic Change: an interdisciplinary, international journal devoted to the description, causes and implications of climatic change , 161(3), 499-516. 10.1007/s10584-020-02712-7
  • Daly, M; Dilling, L. (NOV 2019). The politics of "usable" knowledge: examining the development of climate services in Tanzania. CLIMATIC CHANGE, 157(1), 61-80. 10.1007/s10584-019-02510-w
  • Page, R; Dilling, L. (OCT 2019). The Critical Role of Communities of Practice and Peer Learning in Scaling Hydroclimatic Information Adoption. WEATHER CLIMATE AND SOCIETY, 11(4), 851-862. 10.1175/WCAS-D-18-0130.1
  • Dilling, L; Prakash, A; Zommers, Z; Ahmad, F; Singh, N; de Wit, S; Nalau, J; Daly, M; Bowman, K. (AUG 2019). Is adaptation success a flawed concept?. NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, 9(8), 572-574. 10.1038/s41558-019-0539-0
  • Smith, R; Kasprzyk, J; Dilling, L. (JUL 2019). Testing the potential of Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithms (MOEAs) with Colorado water managers. ENVIRONMENTAL MODELLING & SOFTWARE, 117, 149-163. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2019.03.011
  • Dilling, L., J. Berggren, J. Henderson, and D. Kenney. (March, 22, 2019 2019). Savior of rural landscapes or Solomon's choice? Colorado's experiment with alternative transfer methods for water ATMs. Water Security, 6. 10.1016/j.wasec.2019.100027
  • Dilling, L; Daly, ME; Kenney, DA; Klein, R; Miller, K; Ray, AJ; Travis, WR; Wilhelmi, O. (2019). Drought in urban water systems: Learning lessons for climate adaptive capacity. CLIMATE RISK MANAGEMENT, 23, 32-42. 10.1016/j.crm.2018.11.001
  • Averyt, K, JD Derner, L Dilling, R Guerrero, L Joyce, S McNeeley, E McNie, J Morisette, D Ojima, R OMalley, D Peck, AJ Ray, M Reeves and W Travis. (MAY 2018). Regional Climate Response Collaboratives Multi-Institutional Support for Climate Resilience. BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY, 99(5), 891-898. 10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0183.1
  • Dilling, L., R. Morss, and O. Wilhelmi. (2018). Learning to Expect Surprise: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Beyond. Journal of Extreme Events, 4(3). 10.1142/S2345737617710014
  • Wibeck, V, A Hansson, J Anshelm, S Asayama, L Dilling, PM Feetham, R Hauser, A Ishii and M Sugiyama. (NOV 2017). Making sense of climate engineering: a focus group study of lay publics in four countries. CLIMATIC CHANGE, 145(2-Jan), 1-14. 10.1007/s10584-017-2067-0
  • Smith, R, J Kasprzyk and L Dilling. (SEP 2017). Participatory Framework for Assessment and Improvement of Tools (ParFAIT): Increasing the impact and relevance of water management decision support research. ENVIRONMENTAL MODELLING & SOFTWARE, 95, 432-446. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2017.05.004
  • Dilling, L, E Pizzi, J Berggren, A Ravikumar and K Andersson. (NOV 2017). Drivers of adaptation: Responses to weather- and climate-related hazards in 60 local governments in the Intermountain Western US. ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING A, 49(11), 2628-2648. 10.1177/0308518X16688686
  • Dilling, L, KC Kelsey, DP Fernandez, YD Huang, JB Milford and JC Neff. (AUG 2016). Managing Carbon on Federal Public Lands: Opportunities and Challenges in Southwestern Colorado. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 58(2), 283-296. 10.1007/s00267-016-0714-2
  • Kirchhoff, CJ and L Dilling. (APR 2016). The role of US states in facilitating effective water governance under stress and change. WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, 52(4), 2951-2964. 10.1002/2015WR018431
  • Dilling, L. (2015). Adaptation. RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON CLIMATE GOVERNANCE, 470-479.
  • Dilling, L, ME Daly, WR Travis, OV Wilhelmi and RA Klein. (JUL-AUG 2015). The dynamics of vulnerability: why adapting to climate variability will not always prepare us for climate change. WILEY INTERDISCIPLINARY REVIEWS-CLIMATE CHANGE, 6(4), 413-425. 10.1002/wcc.341
  • Dilling, L and J Berggren. (APR 2015). What do stakeholders need to manage for climate change and variability? A document-based analysis from three mountain states in the Western USA. REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, 15(4), 657-667. 10.1007/s10113-014-0668-y
  • Dilling, L, K Lackstrom, B Haywood, K Dow, MC Lemos, J Berggren and S Kalafatis. (JAN 2015). What Stakeholder Needs Tell Us about Enabling Adaptive Capacity: The Intersection of Context and Information Provision across Regions in the United States. WEATHER CLIMATE AND SOCIETY, 7(1), 5-17. 10.1175/WCAS-D-14-00001.1
  • Archie, KM, L Dilling, JB Milford and FC Pampel. (15-Jan 2014). Unpacking the information barrier: Comparing perspectives on information as a barrier to climate change adaptation in the interior mountain West. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 133, 397-410. 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.12.015
  • Dilling, L and R Hauser. (DEC 2013). Governing geoengineering research: why, when and how?. CLIMATIC CHANGE, 121(3), 553-565. 10.1007/s10584-013-0835-z
  • Dilling, L and E Failey. (FEB 2013). Managing carbon in a multiple use world: The implications of land-use decision context for carbon management. GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS, 23(1), 291-300. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.012
  • Archie, KM, L Dilling, JB Milford and FC Pampel. (2012). Climate Change and Western Public Lands: a Survey of U.S. Federal Land Managers on the Status of Adaptation Efforts. ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY, 17(4). 10.5751/ES-05187-170420
  • McNeeley, SM, SA Tessendorf, H Lazrus, T Heikkila, IM Ferguson, JS Arrigo, SZ Attari, CM Cianfrani, L Dilling, JJ Gurdak, SK Kampf, D Kauneckis, CJ Kirchhoff, J Lee, BR Lintner, KM Mahoney, S Opitz-Stapleton, P Ray, AB South, AP Stubblefield and J Brugger. (APR 2012). Catalyzing Frontiers in Water-Climate-Society Research A View from Early Career Scientists and Junior Faculty. BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY, 93(4), 477-484. 10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00221.1
  • Ellenwood, MS, L Dilling and JB Milford. (MAY 2012). Managing United States Public Lands in Response to Climate Change: A View From the Ground Up. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 49(5), 954-967. 10.1007/s00267-012-9829-2
  • Morss, RE, OV Wilhelmi, GA Meehl and L Dilling. (2011). Improving Societal Outcomes of Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate: An Integrated Perspective. ANNUAL REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES, VOL 36, 36, 1-25. 10.1146/annurev-environ-060809-100145
  • Dilling, L and MC Lemos. (MAY 2011). Creating usable science: Opportunities and constraints for climate knowledge use and their implications for science policy. GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS, 21(2), 680-689. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.11.006
  • Hale, B and L Dilling. (MAR 2011). Geoengineering, Ocean Fertilization, and the Problem of Permissible Pollution. SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY & HUMAN VALUES, 36(2), 190-212. 10.1177/0162243910366150
  • Failey, EL and L Dilling. (APR-JUN 2010). Carbon stewardship: land management decisions and the potential for carbon sequestration in Colorado, USA. ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 5(2). 10.1088/1748-9326/5/2/024005
  • Moser, SC and L Dilling. (2007). Toward the social tipping point: creating a climate for change. CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE: COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE AND FACILITATING SOCIAL CHANGE, 491-516. 10.1017/CBO9780511535871.035
  • Dilling, L and B Farhar. (2007). Making it easy: establishing energy efficiency and renewable energy as routine best practice. CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE: COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE AND FACILITATING SOCIAL CHANGE, 359-382. 10.1017/CBO9780511535871.026
  • Moser, SC and L Dilling. (2007). CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change Preface. CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE: COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE AND FACILITATING SOCIAL CHANGE, IX-XII. 10.1017/CBO9780511535871.001
  • Dilling, L and SC Moser. (2007). CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change Introduction. CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE: COMMUNICATING CLIMATE CHANGE AND FACILITATING SOCIAL CHANGE, 1-27. 10.1017/CBO9780511535871.003
  • Dilling, Liso. (May-07 2007). Toward carbon governance: Challenges across scales in the United States. GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS, 7(2), 28-+. 10.1162/glep.2007.7.2.28
  • Dilling, L. (FEB 2007). Towards science in support of decision making: characterizing the supply of carbon cycle science. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY, 10(1), 48-61. 10.1016/j.envsci.2006.10.008
  • Miller, J. B. (2005). Book Review: ‘The Global Carbon Cycle: Integrating Humans, Climate, and the Natural World’. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 87 (4).
  • Dilling, L and MA Brzezinski. (Sep-04 2004). Quantifying marine snow as a food choice for zooplankton using stable silicon isotope tracers. J. Plankton Res., 26(9), 1105-1114. 10.1093/plankt/fbh103
  • Moser, SC and L Dilling. (DEC 2004). Making climate hot - Communicating the urgency and challenge of global climate change. ENVIRONMENT, 46(10), 32-46. 10.1080/00139150409605820
  • Dilling, L, SC Doney, J Edmonds, KR Gurney, R Harriss, D Schimel, B Stephens and G Stokes. (2003). Therole of carbon cycle observations andknowledge in carbon management. ANNUAL REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES, 28, 521-558. 10.1146/
  • Dilling, L and AL Alldredge. (Jul-00 2000). Fragmentation of marine snow by swimming macrozooplankton: A new process impacting carbon cycling in the sea. DEEP-SEA RESEARCH PART I-OCEANOGRAPHIC RESEARCH PAPERS, 47(7), 1227-1245. 10.1016/S0967-0637(99)00105-3
  • Dilling, L, J Wilson, D Steinberg and A Alldredge. (1998 1998). Feeding by the euphausiid Euphausia pacifica and the copepod Calanus pacificus on marine snow. MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 170, 189-201. 10.3354/meps170189

Graduate Students

Will Crawford

MS student, Environmental Studies Program

Natalie Bennett

MS student, Environmental Studies Program

Rebecca Page

MS Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2018

John Berggren

PhD Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2017

Meaghan Daly

PhD Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2016

Rachel Hauser

MS Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2013

Kelli Archie

PhD Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2012

Ron LaCross

MS Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2011

Elizabeth (Failey) Wagner

MS Student, Environmental Studies Program

Graduated 2011

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: Daniel Mayer, Wikimedia