Stephanie E. Cleland

Environmental Health Scientist & Epidemiologist


Environmental Health Scientist & Epidemiologist.

I'm Stephanie Cleland, an assistant professor and the Legacy for Airway Health Chair in Promotion of Lung Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. I am also a research scientist at the Legacy for Airway Health at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. My research evaluates the human health impacts of exposure to climate change-influenced environmental hazards through environmental epidemiology, exposure assessments, and health impact assessments. My work leverages novel statistical approaches and innovative datasets to understand what levels, durations, and types of exposure are most harmful to the health and well-being of communities and identify the most at-risk and impacted populations. Specifically, I utilize spatiotemporal exposure assessments to estimate population-level exposure and run complex epidemiological analyses and impact assessments to link these exposure estimates with large health outcome datasets. My research also investigates the best approaches for evaluating these impacts and aims to identify approaches for reducing the adverse health effects of and increasing community resilience to climate change. I also have a strong interest in science and public health communication, environmental health justice, and increasing the accessibility of scientific research.

I have a PhD and MSPH in Environmental Sciences & Engineering (ESE) from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill and a BS in Computer Science and Community Health from Tufts University. I completed my dissertation research as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) research fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment.

More information about my research, education, and experience can be found below.

Research & Publications

My research has broadly focused on evaluating the human health impacts of exposure to key climate change-influenced environmental hazards, including wildfire smoke and extreme heat. Below highlights some of my primary projects and publications. A full list of my associated publications can be also be found on Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or ORCID.

Extreme Heat and Cardiovascular Morbidity in Urban Heat Islands

This project evaluated the cardiovascular morbidity risk and burden associated with extreme heat exposure among older adults living in urban heat island (UHI)-affected areas in the U.S. We found that extreme heat increases the risk and burden of cardiovascular hospitalization in older urban populations, with significant city-to-city variation, and UHIs exacerbate these impacts among those with existing vulnerabilities. An interactive dashboard with all results from the analyses can be viewed here.

Cleland, S.E., Steinhardt, W., Neas, L., West, J.J., Rappold, A.G (2023). Urban heat island impacts on heat-related cardiovascular morbidity: A time series analysis of older adults in US metropolitan areas. Environment International.

PM2.5 and Wildfire Smoke Exposure and Cognitive Performance

This project evaluated the associations between short-term exposure to PM2.5 and wildfire smoke and cognitive function in U.S. adults, as measured by performance on the Lumosity brain-training application. We found that both pollutants were associated with reduced attention within just hours and days of exposure. An interactive dashboard with all results from the analyses can be viewed here.

Cleland, S.E., Wyatt, L.H., Wei, L., Paul, N., Serre, M.L., West, J.J., Henderson, S.B., Rappold, A.G (2022). Short-term exposure to wildfire smoke and PM2.5 and cognitive performance in a brain-training game: A longitudinal study of US adults. Environmental Health Perspectives, 130(6).

Hospitalizations Attributable to Wildfire Smoke Exposure

This project estimated the number of hospitalizations attributable to fire-originated PM2.5 exposure during the 2017 California wildfires. It also evaluated the sensitivity of the health impact assessment to the exposure and epidemiologic inputs used. We found that accurate exposure estimates and context-specific health risk functions estimated the fire-attributable health impacts with greater certainty.

Cleland, S.E., Serre, M.L., Rappold, A.G., West, J.J. (2021). Estimating the acute health impacts of fire-originated PM2.5 exposure during the 2017 California wildfires: Sensitivity to choices of inputs. GeoHealth, 5(7).

Estimating PM2.5 Exposure During a Wildfire Event

This project focused on using observed, modeled, and satellite-derived concentrations to estimate population-level PM2.5 exposure during the 2017 California wildfires. We evaluated the accuracy of 4 different data fusion approaches and found that combining all available datasets provided the best estimates of exposure.

Cleland, S.E., West, J.J., Jia, Y., Reid, S., Raffuse, S., O’Neill, S., Rappold, A.G., Serre, M.L. (2020). Estimating wildfire smoke concentrations during the October 2017 California fires through BME space/time data fusion of observed, modeled, and satellite-derived PM2.5. Environmental Science and Technology, 54 (21).

Curriculum Vitae

My curriculum vitae can be viewed below. It can also be downloaded here.

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