Science Adviser Profile

Sara Hughes


Sara Hughes is an associate professor of environmental policy and planning at the School for Environmental and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. She also serves as the associate director of the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research and directs the Water and Climate Policy Lab.

Hughes is a scholar of policy agendas, policy analysis, and governance processes, focusing on decisions about water resources and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Her current research focuses on the political and institutional dimensions of equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water in the United States; the role of municipal finances in drinking water management and resilience; and urban flooding, including equitable approaches to building climate resilience. She is currently the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded project Feeling the Squeeze: How Financial Stress Shapes Decision Making and Risk for Drinking Water Systems in U.S. Cities.

Hughes’s research has been published in Nature Climate Change, Policy Studies Journal, and Environmental Justice along with other journals in political science, urban studies, and environmental policy. Her group regularly produces policy briefs and guidance documents for decisionmakers, and her research has been covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Global Water Forum. Prior to joining the University of Michigan, she served on the political science faculty at the University of Toronto. Hughes received her Ph.D. in environmental science and management from the University of California, Santa Barbara. More information about her research and students can be found at


School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan


Ann Arbor, Mich.