About

Julia Ekstrom, PhD

I study how societies are transitioning — or trying to transition — to create a more sustainable world. I am currently Director of the Climate Adaptation Program at the University of California Davis Policy Institute. My research focus here is looking at how to better connect the climate science to support decision-makers on the ground. This work is focused on air and water quality in California and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Prior to UC Davis, I was a Science Fellow in the Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). During this fellowship I worked with a multidisciplinary group of experts on mapping human vulnerability and risk to ocean acidification, supported by the SESYNC.

Previously, I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Berkeley working on climate change adaptation and associated barriers as part of California’s Vulnerability & Adaptation Study (and Third Climate Assessment funded by the State of California). The focus of this project was to document and examine the processes and efforts local governments (cities and counties) were undertaking to prepare for or deal with the impacts of climate change. Within this project, my research also investigated the barriers that local governments encounter as they try to adapt and/or prepare for climate change. Documentation of these challenges can be especially useful for other local governments as they take their own steps forward to progress adaptation planning.

Previously from July 2009 to July 2010, my postdoctoral project was conducted through Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with Drs. Margaret Torn and Susanne Moser. During this time, I reviewed literature relating to the process of adaptation, which culminated into the development of a framework to characterize and organize the barriers to adaptation.

This project was under the direction of and mentorship of Dr. Susanne Moser and was supported by the California Energy Commission’s PIER Program.

I have also conducted social vulnerability assessments for three climate change adaptation processes conducted in by local governments in California: Cities of Los Angeles and Hermosa Beach, and counties of San Luis Obispo and Fresno. Research included both qualitative analysis of existing data and climate projections and quantitative GIS vulnerability analysis. These project were conducted with Susanne Moser. The work in SLO and Fresno was in collaboration with the Local Government Commission and the Geos Institute, and the work in Los Angeles was with/for USC Sea Grant.

In addition to my work on climate change adaptation, I also have experience in ocean and coastal governance (including management and policy) research. In my doctoral dissertation research at UC Santa Barbara, I studied the process and challenges coastal and ocean managers face in trying to transition to a more ecosystem-based management approach. Based on an extensive examination of the constraints to planning for and implementing ecosystem-based management (EBM), I developed methods to automate the process of finding gaps and overlaps in ocean and coastal laws and regulations. Upon completing her PhD, I worked with the Engineering Informatics Group at Stanford University to implement these methods into a free open-source software, making it available publicly (http://minoe.stanford.edu).

For a list of my publications, see Publications.

For more information (CV) click here