Professional photo of Michelle Saunders, wearing a green sweater on a black background
Michelle Saunders: Assistant Professor of Meteorology and Geography

Michelle Saunders

Assistant Professor, Meteorology and Geography

208 Hilbun Hall
Mississippi State, MS 39762

Dr. Michelle Saunders is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University. She is a geographer studying at the intersection of meteorology and societal impacts. Her current research involves the design and testing of a new vulnerability tool called the Brief Vulnerability Overview Tool (BVOT). This research, in collaboration with her colleagues at the University of Oklahoma, studies the impact of having increased vulnerability knowledge and high temporal resolution guidance on National Weather Service forecasters and core partners. Her research interests include atmospheric hazards, risk perception/communication, decision-making, societal impacts and using GIS. Her past research involves a mixed-methods study on how Tampa Bay Area residents use and perceive weather radar displays. Dr. Saunders has hands-on experience surveying hurricane evacuees in Florida during active evacuations. Ultimately her goal is to conduct research that leads to a greater understanding of risk perception and decision-making regarding severe weather events and to improve the communication of weather hazards.

Personal Website


  • Ph.D., Geography and Environmental Science and Policy, University of South Florida, 2020
    • ​Dissertation: The Percieved Usefullness of a Weather Radar Display by Tampa Bay Residents
  • M.S., Geography, University of Alabama, 2015
    • Thesis: Perceptions of Hurricane Hazards in the Mid-Atlantic
  • B.S., Geography, Salisbury University, 2013
    • Concentration: Atmospheric Science and Earth Science; Minor: Communication Arts


  • Assistant Professor, Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, 2023 - present
  • Research Scientist, Center for Applied Social Research, University of Oklahoma, 2023
  • Lead Research Mentor, National Weather Center – Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, University of Oklahoma, 2022
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Applied Social Research, University of Oklahoma 2020 – 2022
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant/Associate, University of South Florida, 2015 – 2020
  • Graduate Mentor, Weather, Climate, and Society – Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, 2018 – 2019

Research Interests

  • Atmospheric Hazards
  • Risk Perception
  • Risk and Vulnerability Communication
  • Decision-Making
  • Societal Impacts

Teaching Areas

  • GR 8833: Weather and Society
  • GR 4813/6813: Natural Hazards and Processes

Honors/Professional Activities

  • Science Policy Advocate, Voices for Science Program – Policy Track, American Geophysical Union 2023 – 2024
  • Attendee & Presenter, National Center for Atmospheric Research BRIGHTE Workshop – Storm Surge and Sea-level Rise Workshop, Boulder, CO, 2019

Recent Publications

  • Saunders, M.E., Ash, K.E., Collins, J.M., and Morss, R. (2023). Construal of Situational Risk and Outcomes – Exploring the Use of Radar Displays. Weather, Climate, and Society, 10(1): 211-226. DOI:
  • Saunders, M.E., and Collins, J.M. (2021). Factors Influencing the Motivations & Perceived Usefulness of a Weather Radar Display in Tampa Bay. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 102:1-37. DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-20-0052.1
  • Ersing, R.L., Pearce, C., Collins, J., Saunders, M.E., and Polen, A. (2020). Geophysical and Social Influences on Evacuation Decision-Making: The Case of Hurricane Irma. Atmosphere, 11(851): 1-19. DOI:10.3390/atmos11080851
  • Senkbeil, J.C., Reed, J., Collins, J.M., Brothers, K., Saunders, M.E., Skeeter, W., Cerrito, E., Chakroborty, S. and Polen, A. (2020). Perceptions of Hurricane Track Forecasts in the U.S.A. Weather, Climate, and Society,12: 15-29. DOI:10.1175/WCAS-D-19-0031.1
  • Saunders, M.E., Ash, K.E., and Collins J.M. (2018). Usefulness of the United States National Weather Service Radar Display as Rated by Website Users. Weather, Climate, and Society, 10: 673-691. DOI: 10.1175/WCAS-D-17-0108.1
  • Collins, J.M., R. Ersing, A. Polen, Saunders, M.E., and Senkbeil, J.C. (2018). The Effects of Social Connections on Evacuation Decision Making during Hurricane Irma. Weather, Climate, and Society, 10(3): 459-469.
  • Senkbeil, J.C., Saunders, M.E., and Taylor B. (2017). Changes in Summer Weather Type Frequency in Eastern North America. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107(5): 1229-1245. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1295839
  • Saunders, M.E. and Senkbeil, J.C. (2017). Perceptions of Hurricane Hazards in the Mid-Atlantic region. Meteorological Applications, 24: 120–134. DOI: 10.1002/met.1611