Serena Alexander

Assistant Professor

Urban and Regional Planning

Current Research Activities

My research agenda is organized around four important questions: 
 1) how local, regional and state governments can develop and implement     effective strategies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)? 
 2) how can communities prepare to address the adverse impacts of climate   change and protect their vulnerable populations and infrastructure? 
 3) how can we reduce the contributions of transportation to total GHGs? 
 4) how climate action planning can be used to protect underprivileged   populations and build healthy, just and resilient communities? 
Most of my recent research focuses on the intersection of climate action planning and transportation. Because discussions of equity and climate justice are a big part of planning for climate change, my research often analyzes how planning tools and policy measures designed to reduce emissions impact social equity and vice versa. 
Three of the most recent projects that I’ve led examined topics such as: 1) how can cities use climate action plans (CAPs) to ensure that on-demand mobility and autonomous vehicles (AVs) help reduce, rather than increase, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and inequitable impacts from the transportation system; 2) how can cities in California harmonize climate mitigation and adaptation into their transportation and land-use planning efforts; and 3) how can California ensure that off-site vehicle miles traveled (VMT) mitigation efforts tied to SB743 are equitably and proportionately distributed.

Research Connections to Current Events

My research is always a reflection of current issues faced by our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed deep inequities in race and economic status, disparities in adaptation capacity, and the inadequacy of our social safety nets. The reasons communities of color have borne disproportionately greater impacts of the pandemic are similar to the reasons why they are at a higher risk of adverse climate impacts. Communities have long used climate action plans as tools to fight for environmental justice and build strength and resilience to combat disasters. Through climate action planning, many communities are now trying to focus their attention on strategies that will result in improved air quality, better access to decent jobs and mobility options, and more resilient communities, while also minimizing their contribution to climate change. My research investigates how these planning practices are developed, implemented and evaluated to help communities better respond to current challenges and prepare for the future.

Personal Connections to Research

I was first introduced to the subject of climate action planning during my graduate studies in 2010. At that time, many cities were trying to find ways to respond to the state level mandates for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The field of climate action planning has grown and evolved since then, but climate change remains one of the most challenging issues of our times. I’m inspired by innovative actions local and state governments across the nation are taking to address climate change, and excited to contribute to this field through my research, teaching and scholarly activities.


Climate action planning, climate justice, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, climate adaptation, climate resilience, transportation planning, environmental planning

Other Languages

Armenian, Farsi (Persian)