Student from CRC program receives Distinguished Dissertation honor

Dr. Sierra Woodruff, who will graduate this spring from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was recognized for her outstanding PhD work on climate change adaptation planning.

Woodruff received the 2017 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award in Social Sciences from the Graduate School at UNC-CH. Her dissertation was titled “Climate Change Adaptation in the United States.”

Sierra Woodruff (Photo by Kristin Prelipp)
Sierra Woodruff (Photo by Kristin Prelipp)

While pursuing her Ph.D., Woodruff was a student in a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program at UNC, a graduate certificate in natural hazards resilience. She served as a Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs Graduate Student Climate Preparedness Intern in Washington, D.C., in 2014, working with the White House on the President’s national climate change policy. CRC Principal Investigator Dr. Phil Berke and Center Director Dr. Gavin Smith served on her PhD committee.

Woodruff has published several papers on climate change adaptation based on her dissertation research. She was first author on an article in Nature Climate Change,  “Numerous strategies but limited implementation guidance in US local adaptation plans,” in May 2016. In addition, “Planning for an unknowable future: Uncertainty in climate change adaptation planning,” was published in Climactic Change in July 2016; and “Looking under the hood of local adaptation plans: shedding light on the actions prioritized to build local resilience to climate change” was published in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change in November 2016.

After defending her dissertation in February, Woodruff started a post-doctoral research position at the University of Notre Dame’s ND-GAIN, a center focused on advancing climate change adaptation.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Woodruff said. “I hope this research draws attention to the importance of adaptation and helps communities across the country better prepare for the impacts of climate change.

“I am also tremendously grateful to the many people that made this work possible through their support and mentorship, including faculty and staff in CRC.”

Woodruff also received a Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award from the UNC-CH Graduate School. The award recognizes graduate students for contributions made to North Carolina.