Douglas Bessette

Assistant Professor of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability, where he researches and teaches courses in sustainable energy, energy transitions and community energy development. I use both an interdisciplinary coupled human-environment system and applied decision research approach to tackle multi-scale problems that often require identifying and analyzing complicated tradeoffs. In my applied work, I develop and deploy structured decision-making frameworks that incorporate value-focused thinking and help stakeholders to identify objectives, generate alternatives, predict consequences and make explicit tradeoffs between values and strategies. My past research has spanned multiple contexts including organic and sustainable agriculture, coastal climate risk management, natural resource management in developing territories and green infrastructure.

I earned my PhD in Geography from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada and MSc from the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies here at MSU. Following completion of my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral scholar with the Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management at Penn State University and as a Senior Research Associate in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University. Before completing my undergraduate degree I served four years in the U.S. Army as an M1A1 tanker.


  • 2017–present
    Assistant professor, Michigan State University
  • 2016–2017
    Research associate, Ohio State University
  • 2015–2016
    Postdoctoral associate, Penn State University


  • 2015 
    University of Calgary, PhD
  • 2011 
    Michigan State University, MSc
  • 2005 
    University of Michigan, BA


  • 2018
    In the weeds: distinguishing organic farmers who want information about ecological weed management from those who need it, Renewable Agriculture & Food Systems
  • 2018
    Engaging attribute tradeoffs in clean energy portfolio development, Energy Policy
  • 2017
    Building a values‐informed mental model for new orleans climate risk management, Risk Analysis
  • 2016
    Facilitating ecological weed management decisions by assessing risk-benefit tradeoffs, Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems
  • 2016
    Expanding the reach of participatory risk management: Testing an online decision‐aiding framework for informing internally consistent choices, Risk Analysis
  • 2015
    Structuring decisions about energy in developing communities: an example from Canada's north, Journal of Environmental Planning & Management
  • 2014
    Decision support framework for developing regional energy strategies, Environmental Science & Technology
  • 2012
    Decision support for developing energy strategies, Issues in Science & Technology

Grants and Contracts

  • 2018
    Examining the impacts of and improving decision-making processes for offshore wind development in the U.S. Great Lakes
    Funding Source:
  • 2018
    Line 5: Oil Spill Detection, Remediation, and Risk Perceptions in Winter Conditions
    Funding Source:

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Risk Analysis
  • Society of Judgment & Decision Making