Ph.D. Arizona State University, 2018
Economic & ecological anthropology; institutional economics; water & resource insecurity; informal water markets; norm-based water systems; economic and environmental justice; mental health; ethnographic, community-based, and participatory research methods; cross-cultural research
Dr. Melissa Beresford is an economic anthropologist focused on understanding how humans adapt to water (and other resource) insecurity. Her NSF CAREER-funded research on informal water vending markets develops and tests new economic theories that model how human cultural norms of justice shape the distribution and exchange of water when it is insecure. This work is part of an emerging international field of scholarship that theorizes the evolution of new social infrastructures and institutional arrangements (e.g., informal economies, water sharing networks, etc.) in response to the collapse of centralized water systems and the emergence of "MAD Water" systems (Modular, Adaptive, Decentralized engineered infrastructures) under future climate change, migration, and urbanization scenarios.
Dr. Beresford’s current research agenda is grounded in community-based, mixed-methods field research with water insecure communities in California. She also collaborates widely with other scholars to bring local ethnographic fieldwork findings from multiple global sites into cross-cultural comparison. This interdisciplinary and global comparative research approach enables Dr. Beresford and her collaborators to build generalizable theories on human adaptations to resource insecurities that can drive forward new public policy agendas, including those for water management and advancing the Human Right to Water.
Dr. Beresford is also a research methodologist and regularly conducts research to advance methods for community-based participatory research and qualitative data analysis. She is a Co-Director and Co-PI of the NSF-funded Cultural Anthropology Methods Program (CAMP), which builds, assess, and advanced research methods training for PhD students and research professionals. She is a Steering Committee Member of the NSF-funded Household Water Insecurity (HWISE) Research Coordination Network and sits on the editorial board of the journal Economic Anthropology.
As experienced and enthusiastic teacher, Dr. Beresford’s primary teaching foci include research methods training; mentorship techniques for diverse student bodies; pedagogy and practice of diverse teaching modalities (including hybrid and online formats); experiential learning (undergraduate research experiences, study abroad); and citizen science projects. She has directed fieldwork teams of undergraduate and graduate students in California, Arizona, South Africa, and Latin America and is the director of the Culture, Economy, and Environment (CEE) training laboratory at San Jose State University.