Science of Decision-Making

A changing environment offers risk and opportunity. We explore ways to use weather and climate information, from short-term weather forecasts to long-term climate projects, to make better adaptation decisions.  We use risk and decision analysis to examine adaptation choices in a changing environment,  applying data analytics to improve risk management and decision-making in land use (e.g., agriculture and infrastructure), insurance, response to extreme events, and other areas sensitive to the pace and pattern of environmental change.



We apply decision analysis as a research tool by studying how the decision environment affects choices, focusing particularly on the value of additional information in adaptation to climate extremes. Our approach aims to create realistic, theory-driven decision models that can be simulated under historical and projected conditions, subjected to extensive sensitivity analysis, and used by stakeholders who face drought, flood, and wildfire risks. Our goals are to:


  • Help analysts and decision-makers recognize the structure, trade-offs, and likely outcomes of a range of choices made under uncertainty;
  • Provide tools for testing how sensitive decisions are to climate variation, to improved information, or to down-side risks;
  • Suggest optimum, robust, or least-regret decisions.



Clifford, K., W.R. Travis, and L.T. Nordgren (2020): “A climate knowledges approach to climate services.” Climate Services. 10.1016/j.cliser.2020.100155

Clifford, K., L. Yung, W.R. Travis, R. Rondeau, I. Rangwala, C. Wyborn, N. Burkhardt, and E. Neeley (2020): "Navigating climate adaptation on public lands: how views on ecosystem change and scale interact with management approaches.” Environmental Management.

McCurdy, A. and W.R. Travis (2017): “Simulated climate adaptation in stormwater systems: Evaluating the efficiency of adaptation pathways.” Environment Systems and Decisions 37: 214-229. DOI: 10.1007/s10669-017-9631-z

Clifford, K and W.R. Travis (2018): “Knowing climate as a social-ecological-atmospheric construct.” Global Environmental Change 49: 1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.12.007. 

Huisenga, M. and W.R. Travis (2015) “Climate Variability and the Sensitivity of Downstream Temperature to Treated Waste Water Discharge: A Simulation Analysis.” Environment Systems and Decisions 35: 11-21. DOI: 10.1007/s10669-014-9532-3

Travis, W.R. and B. Bates (2014) “What is Climate Risk Management?” Climate Risk Management 1, 1-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.crm.2014.02.003.

Project Team

Project Lead

William R. Travis

In Earth Lab, Travis leads work on environmental risk and decision-making, and developing the science and tools that can improve adaptation to a changing environment, with a recent focus on agriculture, infrastructure, insurance, and hazards mitigation, areas sensitive to the pace and pattern of environmental change.

Jennifer K. Balch

Earth Lab