Amber L. Pearson, PhD, MPH

amber pearson

Dr. Pearson is an Associate Professor in the Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health at Michigan State University and an Adjunct Fellow in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago. She completed her PhD in Geography and MPH in Global Health at the University of Washington, a MSc at Western Washington University and BA at University of North Texas. Prior to joining MSU, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and then a Research Fellow at the University of Otago.

Dr. Pearson is a health geographer with a focus on social justice and intersections between spatial and social features of neighborhoods. Specifically, her research relates to aspects of the neighborhood built, physical and social environment that may bolster opportunities for a healthy life, often in the face of socioeconomic adversity. Her overall research goal is to understand the interactions between humans and their neighborhoods to improve health and wellbeing while paying careful attention to health inequalities and environmental justice. Her work has been funded by NIH, NSF, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, American Association of Geographers, New Zealand (NZ) Ministry of Health, NZ Health Research Council, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, MSU’s Clinical and Translational Science Initiative, Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies, Undergraduate Research Initiative and the Water Science Network. Her research has been featured in many media outlets including the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the BBC. In 2017, she was awarded Undergraduate Mentor of the Year from MSU. In 2018, she was awarded the Emerging Scholar in Health/Medical Geography from the American Association of Geographers.

Selected Publications

Pearson AL, Zhou Y, Buxton RT, Horton TH, Pfeiffer KA, Beyer KMM. The effects of contemporary redlining on the mental health of Black residents. SSM Popul Health. 2023 Jun 29;23:101462. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2023.101462. PMID: 37456619; PMCID: PMC10339054.

Pearson AL, Brown CD, Reuben A, Nicholls N, Pfeiffer KA, Clevenger KA. Elementary Classroom Views of Nature Are Associated with Lower Child Externalizing Behavior Problems. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Apr 26;20(9):5653. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20095653. PMID: 37174172; PMCID: PMC10177887.

Pearson AL, Pfeiffer KA, Horton T, Buxton R, Gardiner J, Liu W, Hunter R, White MP
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 3: 688473. doi:

Buxton RT, Pearson AL, Allou C, Fristrup K, Wittemyer G. A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 6;118(14):e2013097118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2013097118. PMID: 33753555; PMCID: PMC8040792.

Pearson AL, Pfeiffer KA, Gardiner J, Horton T, Buxton RT, Hunter RF, Breeze V, McDade T. Study of active neighborhoods in Detroit (StAND): study protocol for a natural experiment evaluating the health benefits of ecological restoration of parks. BMC Public Health. 2020 May 7;20(1):638. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-08716-3. PMID: 32380967; PMCID: PMC7204306.

Pearson AL, Pechal J, Lin Z, Benbow ME, Schmidt C, Mavoa S. Associations detected between measures of neighborhood environmental conditions and human microbiome diversity. Sci Total Environ. 2020 Nov 25;745:141029. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141029. Epub 2020 Jul 20. PMID: 32721621.

Wutich A, Budds J, Eichelberger L, Geere J, Harris L, Horney J, Jepson W, Norman E, O'Reilly K, Pearson A, Shah S, Shinn J, Simpson K, Staddon C, Stoler J, Teodoro MP, Young S. Advancing methods for research on household water insecurity: Studying entitlements and capabilities, socio-cultural dynamics, and political processes, institutions and governance. Water Secur. 2017 Nov;2:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.wasec.2017.09.001. Epub 2017 Nov 16. PMID: 29532811; PMCID: PMC5844501.

Rzotkiewicz A, Pearson AL, Dougherty BV, Shortridge A, Wilson N. Systematic review of the use of Google Street View in health research: Major themes, strengths, weaknesses and possibilities for future research. Health Place. 2018 Jul;52:240-246. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2018.07.001. Epub 2018 Jul 14. PMID: 30015181.

Nutsford D, Pearson AL, Kingham S. An ecological study investigating the association between access to urban green space and mental health. Public Health. 2013 Nov;127(11):1005-11. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2013.08.016. Epub 2013 Nov 19. PMID: 24262442.

Nutsford D, Pearson AL, Kingham S, Reitsma F. Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city. Health Place. 2016 May;39:70-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Mar 11. PMID: 26974233.

Selected Media Coverage

Scholarly Interests

  • Health geography
  • Social and environmental justice
  • Health inequalities
  • Global health
  • Geospatial technologies and methods


  • Email:
  • Address:
    Charles Stewart Mott
    Department of Public Health
    College of Human Medicine,
    Michigan State University
    200 East 1st St
    Flint, MI 48502
  • SHAC Lab

Research Projects

Dr. Pearson's CV  



PhD in Geography
University of Washington

MPH in Global Health
University of Washington

Western Washington University

University of North Texas