Dr. Mele Wheaton is Associate Director of Program Strategy for the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER). Prior to her position in E-IPER Mele was a research scholar in the Social Ecology Lab at Stanford University. Her research interests include behavior change, environmental learning, and equity and inclusion in conservation education. Mele managed projects including exploring the various pathways to environmental literacy, examining how social sciences are integrated into sustainability research, and connecting research and practice both in education and in conservation land management. Mele has studied environmental behavior change in nature-based tourism, with research sites in Galapagos and California, and examined the development of environmental identity. Prior to academia, Mele taught in a variety of outdoor education settings and worked as a field biologist.

Current Role at Stanford

Associate Director of Program Strategy (E-IPER)

Institute Affiliations

Honors & Awards

  • Chancellor’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, University of California, Santa Cruz (2009-2010)
  • Fellowship, Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation (2008)
  • Graduate Research Fellowship, Center for Informal Learning and Schools (2004-2008)

Professional Education

  • BA, University of California, Santa Cruz, Biology Environmental Studies (1996)
  • PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz, Education (Emphasis in Science and Math) (2011)

All Publications

  • Sociocultural learning theories for social-ecological change ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Wheaton, M., Ardoin, N. M., Bowers, A. W., Kannan, A. 2024
  • Incorporating justice, equity, and access priorities into land trusts' conservation efforts BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION Beckman, C. M., Wheaton, M., Sawe, N., Ardoin, N. M. 2023; 279
  • Leveraging collective action and environmental literacy to address complex sustainability challenges. Ambio Ardoin, N. M., Bowers, A. W., Wheaton, M. 2022


    Developing and enhancing societal capacity to understand, debate elements of, and take actionable steps toward a sustainable future at a scale beyond the individual are critical when addressing sustainability challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, and zoonotic disease. Although mounting evidence exists for how to facilitate individual action to address sustainability challenges, there is less understanding of how to foster collective action in this realm. To support research and practice promoting collective action to address sustainability issues, we define the term "collective environmental literacy" by delineating four key potent aspects: scale, dynamic processes, shared resources, and synergy. Building on existing collective constructs and thought, we highlight areas where researchers, practitioners, and policymakers can support individuals and communities as they come together to identify, develop, and implement solutions to wicked problems. We close by discussing limitations of this work and future directions in studying collective environmental literacy.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s13280-022-01764-6

    View details for PubMedID 35943695

  • What is community-level environmental literacy, and how can we measure it? A report of a convening to conceptualize and operationalize CLEL ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Gibson, L. M., Busch, K. C., Stevenson, K. T., Cutts, B. B., DeMattia, E. A., Aguilar, O. M., Ardoin, N. M., Carrier, S. J., Clark, C. R., Cooper, C. B., Feinstein, N., Goodwin, J., Peterson, M., Wheaton, M. 2022
  • Understanding teacher instructional change: the case of integrating NGSS and stewardship in professional development ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH Hayes, K. N., Wheaton, M., Tucker, D. 2019; 25 (1): 115–34
  • Using web and mobile technology to motivate pro-environmental action after a nature-based tourism experience JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Wheaton, M., Ardoin, N. M., Hunt, C., Schuh, J. S., Kresse, M., Menke, C., Durham, W. 2016; 24 (4): 594-615
  • Post-trip philanthropic intentions of nature-based tourists in Galapagos Journal of Ecotourism Ardoin, N., Wheaton, M., Hunt, C., Schuh, J., Durham, W. 2016; 15 (1): 21-35
  • Nature-based tourism's impact on environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behavior: a review and analysis of the literature and potential future research JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM Ardoin, N. M., Wheaton, M., Bowers, A. W., Hunt, C. A., Durham, W. H. 2015; 23 (6): 838-858
  • Building A Scientific Community: An Inquiry-Based Biology Short Course for the 2009 Hartnell SUMS Program Yuh, P., Wheaton, M., Wright, A., Contreras, L., McCann, S., Hunter, L., Metevier, A. J. ASTRONOMICAL SOC PACIFIC. 2010: 211-+
  • Exploring Middle School Girls' Ideas about Science at a Bilingual Marine Science Camp JOURNAL OF MUSEUM EDUCATION Wheaton, M., Ash, D. 2008; 33 (2): 131-141
  • Talk, tools, and tensions: Observing biological talk over time INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION Ash, D., Crain, R., Brandt, C., Loomis, M., Wheaton, M., Bennett, C. 2007; 29 (12): 1581-1602