Dr. Amber L. Pearson

Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University
Adjunct Research Fellow - University of Otago



July 2021


July 29, 2021

Student at University of Miami, Eliza Stuart, presented her research titled “Spatial Analysis of Household Water Insecurity in Rural Uganda” mentored by Dr. Justin Stoler and Dr. Amber Pearson. Eliza is a University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences Summer Research Fellow and rising star! In her research, she found spatial heterogeneity in household water insecurity experiences, suggesting that single-solution interventions may not yield as many benefits as expected. Perhaps more tailored water-related interventions could account for diverse local and household needs, thereby reducing insecurity more equitably.  

July 2021

July 19, 2021

Dr. Pearson recently published a chapter titled, �The (socially distanced) circle of family, friends and allies: How COVID-19 is re-shaping social capital and new opportunities for research� in a new book edited by Andrews, Crooks, Pearce, and Messina.

The new book, published by Routledge is titled �COVID-19 and similar futures: Geographical perspectives, issues and agendas�.


To learn more, visit https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030701789


March 2020

Dr. Pearson and Dr. Kirsten Beyer will be Guest Editors on a Special Issue in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Dr. Pearson and Dr. Kirsten Beyer will be Guest Editors on a Special Issue in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health titled, "Impacts of the Neighborhood Environment on Cancer Prevention, Outcomes and Disparities”. This Special Issue is expected February 2021. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript or learning more, please visit:

Special Issue "Impacts of the Neighborhood Environment on Cancer Prevention, Outcomes and Disparities"

March 2020

Dr. Pearson attended the "Connecting the Dots between Climate Change, Water Insecurity, and Migration" workshop held at the University of Miami

During March 2020, Dr. Pearson was invited to the "Connecting the Dots between Climate Change, Water Insecurity, and Migration” workshop hosted at the University of Miami. The workshop was a part of the HWISE research-coordinating network and was led by Dr. Justin Stoler, an associate professor of geography and public health sciences at the University of Miami. The workshop focused on analyzing how migration decisions may be linked to access to water and accelerated by climate change.

January 2020

Dr. Pearson featured on NIH Grantee webpage

Dr. Pearson was featured on the NIH Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences Grantee Website. Dr. Pearson received a five year grant to study the impact of ecological park restoration on low income neighborhoods. The study is based in Detroit and aims to understand how green spaces may influence physical activity, stress, and cardio-metabolic health among Detroiters.

"I first became interested in how neighborhood green spaces may improve health through my work in New Zealand, where green spaces tend to be high quality and accessible. Now I live in Michigan, where Detroit is recovering from decades of disinvestment in its parks. While improvements have been made, neighborhoods remain where the city's parks renaissance has not reached. This study allows us to test how restoring parks to be vibrant green spaces may contribute to health in underserved communities." ~ Amber Pearson

Check out the profile.

January 2020

Dr. Pearson named a speaker for the MSU Canadian Partnership Forum

Dr. Pearson was a speaker in the MSU Canadian Partnership Forum. The forum is platform to connect scholars across borders to address global challenges. Topics will range from developmental origins of cardiovascular disease to natural resource management and sustainable energy. The forum will be hosted in the Canadian Studies Center, room 306 in International Center, and Dr. Pearson will be speaking on March 19, 2020.

Check out the flyer!

January 2020

Dr. Pearson teaching a professional course in Wellington, New Zealand titled, "GIS techniques in health research" Feb 13-14, 2020.

Do you work in urban planning, disease prevention, outbreak detection, health resource allocation, health equity, epidemiology, exposure assessment or healthcare services?

There are spatial aspects to these and many other domains in public health research, primary care and policy. Come learn how to apply geographic techniques (GIS) and use spatial data to make decisions and conduct health research

For more information or to register, visit: this link.

December 2019

Dr. Pearson featured in Greenness and Wellness Documentary

Dr. Pearson was featured in a documentary created by Hannah Kirshman, a graduate of Grand Valley State University. The exploratory documentary looks at urban green space and their benefits for human health and the environment. Dr. Pearson spoke in the documentary about how is impacted by “the built social environments in neighborhoods as well as the physical environment”. As the documentary explored different green space, Dr. Pearson offered information on the benefits, uses and diversity of green spaces as well as some information on how the StAND study might be able to offer more insights on the relationship between human health and green spaces. You can check out the documentary here.

Watch the documentary here!

November 2019

The Clinton Global Initiative University Alumni Celebration

On Saturday, November 2, 2019, Paula Perry, a field team member of StAND 2019, attended the Clinton Global Initiate (CGI) University Alumni Celebration at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The event brought together a group of young leaders, business and nonprofit executives and philanthropists to reflect on and celebrate the social impact and innovation. Paula Perry attended and presented "A study to examine how ecological park restoration benefits health". Perry had the chance to meet President Bill Clinton and gave him the accompanying poster to her presentation.

November 2019

Coffee Hour Rev. Dr. Ventra Asana

On Friday, November 1, 2019, Reverend Dr. Ventra Asana presented on "The ecotheology as the site of healing for ravaged urban landscapes". The talk was presented by the Space, Health, and Community (SHAC) Lab and Dr. Asana has been working with Dr. Amber Pearson on Study of Active Neighborhoods Detroit (StAND). Dr. Asana earned her Doctor of Ministry at the Ecumenial Theological Seminary in Detroit and she has extensive experience in community outreach and ministry.

October 2019

Visiting The Cornell Ornithology Lab

Dr. Amber Pearson and undergraduate student Claudia Allou travelled to Ithaca, New York to visit the Cornell Ornithology Lab. At the lab, they met with faculty, staff and researchers from the Ornithology Lab as well as Dr. Rachel Buxton and her colleagues from Carleton University to discuss and collaborate on research.

September 2019

Undergraduate student presents at Global Health, Justice and the Environment Conference

Claudia Allou, an undergraduate student, presented at the Global Health, Justice and the Environment Conference at Wayne State University on September 10 2019. She presented both a lightning talk and poster entitled "Urban soundscapes: Initial exploration of birdsong and stress in Detroit." The conference focused on environmental factors impacting human health as well as justice needed to expand access to health care with regard to issues like air pollution or water quality causing health differences.

July 2019

Ph.D. Student Wins ‘Best Presentation’ Award at the 2019 IMGS

Jonnell Sanciangco, a Ph.D. student, won a ‘Best Presentation’ award in the 18th International Medical Geography Symposium held in Queenstown, New Zealand from June 30th to July 6th, 2019. He presented a study entitled: “Inferring Relationship Between City ‘Greenness’ and Homicide using a Growth Curve Modeling Approach.”

July 2019

Dr. Pearson presents at inVIVO Planetary Health

At inVIVO Planetary Health's 8th Annual Meeting in Detroit, Dr. Amber Pearson presented on "The human postmortem microbiome, neighborhood blight and 'greening' in Detroit".

July 2019

PhD Student Wins Travel Award at AAG

Jonnell Sanciangco wins travel award from Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers to travel to New Zealand to attend the 18th International Medical Geography Symposium in July 2019.

April 2019

Undergraduate student wins 1st place at UURAF

Undergraduate student Claudia Allou presented "The health benefits of natural sounds: Identification of and initial steps to address knowledge gaps using soundscape mapping and health data from Detroit" at the 21st annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in April 2019. She won first place in the category 'Epidemiology & Public Health'.

February 2019

Article Video Abstract Released

On January 23, 2019 a video abstract for "The cultural, economic, and health implications of water sharing" was created by Video Byte and Research Square. Check out the video here.

January 2019

Undergraduate Student Presents at MSU Honors College 2nd Annual Diversity Research Showcase

On January 18, 2019 undergraduate student, Claudia Allou, presented "Positive effects of natural sounds on human health and well-being: A systematic review of epidemiological and experimental research". The research showcase is an opportunity for students to share research that examines issues of diversity that advance inclusion with peers, faculty and staff. Allou will also be presenting at the 21st annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in April 2019.

Graduate Student is awarded the Cancer Prevention Fellowship

Graduate student, Kim Clevenger, was awarded the Cancer Prevention Fellowship through the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The program is a four-year post-doctoral fellowship that begins with the completion of a one-year Master’s in Public Health degree and research opportunities with experience NCI mentors. Congratulations Kim! Learn more about the program here.

Dr. Pearson gives a talk at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

On Monday, October 15, 2018 Dr. Pearson presented Nature in Cities: Exploring Both Positive and Negative Visual Exposures at the 3rd Biannual Nature Culture & Human Health Symposium at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The purpose of this symposium is to provide examples of the beneficial role that access to nature provides in reducing the symptoms of chronic stress and the associated lifestyle diseases and to discuss the requirements of the healthcare community for evidence that access to nature is an effective treatment. The goal of this symposium is to ensure that people have the opportunity to form a strong relationship with nature and experience the associated health benefits.

A Summer In Review

During Summer 2018 the Pearson Lab was busy with many new students, projects, visitors and announcements. Tim Chambers successfully completed his PhD on "The extent and nature of children's real-time exposure to alcohol marketing using wearable cameras and GPS devices".

Mariah Thompson, a student from University of California, Berkeley, worked with Dr. Ashton Shortridge and Dr. Amber Pearson through Summer Research Oppurtunities Program (SROP) on "The Relationship Between Park Usage, Maintenance, and Neighborhood Demographics".


In July, Dr. Rachel Buxton paid the Pearson Lab a visit to teach us how to use new equipment for our research in Detroit and collaborate on research about soundscapes.

Dr. Pearson interviewed in BBC feature

BBC Future

Dr. Pearson was interviewed for a report from the BBC that asks, ”Is it really healthier to live in the countryside?”. The article, which featured findings from Dr. Pearson’s 2016 study that investigated blue space and mental health in Wellington, New Zealand, was published June 1st, 2018 as part of BBC Future.

AAG 2018

Lab members present this year's research at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference. Dr. Amber Pearson, and students Wei Liu, Amanda Rzotkiewicz, Ben Dougherty, and Amber DeJohn presented research findings in New Orleans this past April.

Click here to check out AAG's website

In addition, Dr. Pearson helped to facilitate a World Cafe discussion on global water insecurity, chaired by Dr. Wendy Jepson and Dr. Jessica Budds. The Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) consortium also held a banquet to connect with many of the researchers participating in collaborative water research, including Dr. Justin Stoler, Dr. Amber Wutich, Dr. Wendy Jepson and Dr. Jessica Budds.

Dr. Pearson also received the Emerging Scholar award from the Health and Medical Geography Specialty group, from Dr. Michael Widener. Here she is pictured with Dr. Joe Darden, who received the AAG Fellow award.

Kids' Cam Video Abstract Released

On January 22, 2018, a video abstract for “Children’s everyday exposure to food marketing: an objective analysis using wearable cameras,” research co-authored by Dr. Pearson, describes children’s exposure to food advertising as seen through the “Kids’ Cam”. The video highlights the methodology of the research and indicates that their findings show that children face increased exposure to advertising for junk food than exposure to advertising for health foods.

Dr. Pearson gives talk at MSU - Flint

Click to enlarge image.
Click here for a video of the talk!

Dr. Pearson to teach professional course at the University of Otago

On February 14 and 15, 2018, Dr. Pearson will be teaching a Geographic techniques in health research and policy course at the University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand. The course is aimed at public health, urban planners, statistics and geographic sciences students, researchers and practitioners. The course will help those working in the public sectors seeking to understand the concepts and applications of spatial health research.


click here for course information

Lab research featured in The Guardian

A study lead by visiting scholar Tim Chambers and co-authored by Dr. Amber Pearson and lab collaborator Zachary Rzotkiewicz has been featured in The Guardian. The Kids’Cam study, called “Kids in Space”, analyzed children’s neighborhoods using image and GPS data from wearable devices. The Wellington, New Zealand-based study found that the children spent the majority of their time within 500 meters of home.

"There is now mounting evidence of the link between neighbourhood and wellbeing. The constrained nature of children’s neighbourhoods heightens the impact of local facilities and retailers on their health,” said Chambers.

Dr. Terry Horton visits from Northwestern University

Earlier in October, Dr. Terry Horton, an ecological physiologist at Northwestern University, visited the lab in preparation for an upcoming collaborative project investigating health through nature. Dr. Horton gave lab members a hands-on experience on how human biomarkers, such as specific molecules in the blood, are measured. Biomarkers are considered objective measures of health and thus can be used to measure human health and well-being, including aspects such as stress. In additional preparation for the project, Dr. Horton, Dr. Pearson, and lab members Ben and Amanda conducted a workshop in Detroit to gain firsthand knowledge of the values, concerns and priorities most important to community members and leaders.

Kids'Cam Research featured in the media, nominated for Atlas Award

A study lead by visiting scholar Tim Chambers and co-authored by Dr. Amber Pearson has been featured by multiple news outlets since its recent publication. The Kids’Cam study, which objectively observed children’s exposure to alcohol marketing in New Zealand supermarkets, was also nominated for an Atlas Award, an award that “showcases research that could significantly impact people's lives around the world or has already done so”.

Dr. Pearson gives talk at UNC

On September 29, Dr. Pearson gave a colloquium talk titled "Quantifying the Mental Health Benefits of Nature in Cities" at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Geography Department, hosted by Dr. Michael Emch and Dr. Paul Delamater.

Data collection completed in two HWISE sites


As part of the greater Household Water Insecurity Experiences (HWISE) project, Dr. Pearson has been leading, in collaboration with on-site PIs, data collection in two international locations. These sites include Arua District, Uganda, with Dr. Asiki Gershim of the African Population and Health Research Centre and Mérida, Mexico, with Dr. E. Cuauhtémoc Sánchez of University Hospital Augustin O'Horan. In August, Dr. Pearson attended the HWISE Conference at Northwestern University to discuss “study activities, methods for scale validation, and best practices moving forward”.

Dr. Pearson's work featured on Medium

Research co-authored by Dr. Pearson was recently featured in an article titled, “Broken Windows Theory: An Unintended Consequence?” published on a Medium platform organized by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security for Radical Homeland Security Experimentation. From the article:

In the latest issue of the journal Applied Geography, Gregory D. Breetzke and Amber L. Pearson explore the aspect of the theory that maintains that small crimes will gradually increase discomfort and fear in neighborhood residents—and that when the fear causes the residents to retreat, a sense of neglect will pervade the area, which will in turn implicitly invite more crime.

Dr. Pearson's work featured in Water Canada

Research co-authored by Dr. Pearson was recently featured in an article titled, “Reframing Water Security for a Human Wellbeing Approach” in Water Canada magazine.

A recent article published in the journal Water Security, "Advancing human capabilities for water security: A relational approach" argues that water security needs to move away from a material approach to one that “centers on wellbeing, human development, and justice".

Lab Members Present at Mid-SURE

Undergraduate researchers Ben Dougherty and Amber DeJohn presented posters at the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE) on July 26, 2017. Mid-SURE is an opportunity for students at Michigan State as well as other institutions to display their work with other students, faculty, and general audiences. Participants both receive and provide constructive criticism of the presented works.

Ben presented two research projects, titled “Comparison of Three Methods to Quantify Urban Green Space” and “Understanding the Global Extent of Water Privatization 1986-2016”. Amber co-presented a collaborative research project titled “Identifying and Understanding Communities where Twitter is used to Connect about Depression” with fellow student Emily Schulz of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at MSU.


Lab Members Present at IMGS 2017

Dr. Amber Pearson, Amanda Rzotkiewicz, and Tim Chambers attended and presented at the 2017 International Medical Geography Symposium (IMGS) in Angers, France. The conference featured 63 total sessions. Amber presented “Relationships between neighborhood blight, urban green remediation and the postmortem human microbiome in Detroit, Michigan”, Amanda presented “Quantifying children’s everyday visual exposure to urban ‘blue’ spaces using wearable cameras: the how much, for whom, when, where, and with whom”, and Tim presented in two sessions “Kids in Space: Measuring children’s neighborhoods and mobility patterns using wearable cameras and GPS technology” and “The spatial distribution of children’s exposure to alcohol marketing: A novel method using wearable cameras and GPS technology”. Amanda and Tim’s presentations were part of the larger, ongoing Kids’Cam project.

dinner The conference included a wide range of topics of interest in health geography that are also researched by members of the lab, including green and blue spaces, smoking, the use of Twitter in health research, and audioscapes. Beyond content, the conference provided an opportunity to learn about the variety of study designs, sources of data, and challenges faced by other researchers in the field. Both qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method approaches to health research were well represented.

IMGS banquet As a smaller, more specialized conference, IMGS provided an ideal opportunity for both new networking and reconnecting with former colleagues. Both the US- and New Zealand-based researchers and Zachary Rzotkiewicz, who has assisted the lab in various Kids’Cam and microbiome projects by providing computer science and programming skills, were able to meet in person. In addition to the sessions, the field trip and banquet meant that many new connections with other health geographers from around the globe were established by the end of the week.

MSU undergrads honor faculty with Mentor of the Year Awards

Patrick Walton, associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and Amber Pearson, assistant professor of geography, environment and spatial sciences, are both recent recipients of the annual Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Read the full story here!

Lab students win awards and present at AAG


Amanda Rzotkiewicz, a Master's student working with Dr. Pearson, presented research on microbial biodiversity and blighted neighborhoods in Detroit at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference in Boston, MA.

In preparation for the conference, Amanda presented her research for a panel of judges from Michigan State University's Geography Department. Amanda won first place and was awarded a prize at the GEO awards ceremony on April 21, 2017.

Amanda also received the AAG Medical/Health Geography Specialty Group's prize - the Melinda Meade Travel Grant.


Undergraduate lab member Ross Bottomley also presented his work at AAG, titled "Comparing children's Geospatially estimated vs actual visual exposures to 'blue' spaces: Evidence from an island nation". Ross also received the department award for Undergraduate Student of the Year and completed his degree in Summer 2017.

Well done, Amanda and Ross!

Michigan State University Professor Speaks on TPP Research

"Participatory Mapping of Environmental Resources: A Comparison of a Tanzanian Pastoral Community Over Time"
Thursday, January 26, 2017
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
International Center, Room 201
Michigan State University

Amber in the feild Dr. Amber Pearson, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, and Amanda Rzotkiewicz, a graduate student also from the Department of Geography, spoke about their research in the TPP village of Naitolia. The talk, titled "Participatory Mapping of Environmental Resources: A Comparison of a Tanzanian Pastoral Community Over Time," is part of the MSU African Studies Center's Eye on Africa seminar series. The talk was broadcast via livestream at eyeonafrica.matrix.msu.edu.

Amber Pearson participates in "Water Security Workshop" at Texas A&M University, hosted by Wendy Jepson, Amber Wutich and Sera Young.
October 5, 2016

Water Security Workshop Researchers from American and UK universities met to discuss household water security definitions, concepts and measurement over two days. Results of these discussions and presentations will be sythesized in two upcoming manuscripts. Watch this space!

Learn more about:

WAMC Northeast Public Radio | August 12, 2016

Take a hike.

Amber Pearson, assistant professor in the department of geography at Michigan State University, examines why exposure to green and blue spaces can be beneficial for your health.

Read and/or listen to the story

June 29, 2016

Dr. Pearson and Master's student Amanda Rzotkiewicz traveled and presented in the Health Geography stream at the IAG conference, titled "Frontiers of Geographical Knowledge."

The findings may help city planners and others find ways to boost mental health in urban settings, said co-author Amber Pearson.

Dr. Pearson featured in the CASID Update Faculty Spotlight 2016

Amber L. PearsonThe Center for Advanced Study of International Development's CASID Update highlights the past year's international development activities at MSU.

Read the CASID Update feature

NBC Today | May 5, 2016

Living in a neighborhood where you have lots of opportunity to gaze at blue spaces — bodies of water like the sea — is associated with lower levels of stress, researchers found. They did not see a similar effect with green spaces, contradicting other studies.

Read the story

MSU Today | April 28, 2016

Here's another reason to start saving for that beach house: New research suggests that residents with a view of the water are less stressed.

The study, co-authored by Michigan State University’s Amber L. Pearson, is the first to find a link between health and the visibility of water, which the researchers call blue space.

Read the story

Get in touch

Geography Building
Lab - Room 233A
673 Auditorium Rd., Room 231
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 432-7163