Over the summer, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity senior Sarah Tishler asked her­self what cit­i­zens of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu would do if rising sea levels threat­ened to dis­place its modest pop­u­la­tion, as some climate-​​change experts predict.

What hap­pens to people when Tuvalu goes under­water?” said Tishler, a triple major in inter­na­tional affairs, psy­chology and French. “Are they still con­sid­ered cit­i­zens? Do they move to Australia?”

Tishler’s pas­sion for inter­na­tional law and issues such as global cli­mate change led her to the Geneva Center for Secu­rity Policy, where she’s cur­rently on co-​​op as a research assis­tant. The orga­ni­za­tion is an inter­na­tional training center for civil ser­vants, diplo­mats and mil­i­tary offi­cers from all over the world.

Tishler recently co-​​wrote a web edi­to­rial on why the floods in Pak­istan have not resulted in mass migra­tion. Her analysis relied on reports from the United Nations High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees and the Office for the Coor­di­na­tion of Human­i­tarian Affairs.

We wanted to raise aware­ness of the issue,” said Tishler, whose edi­to­rial down­played a lin­gering sen­ti­ment among mem­bers of the media that cli­mate change would result in migra­tion from south to north. “If your liveli­hood was lost in the flood,” she pointed out, “it is unlikely that you would have the resources to migrate very far at all.”

Tishler, who also con­ducts research on urban peace­keeping and China’s monopoly on rare earth metals, is cur­rently writing an 8,000-word edi­to­rial on the rela­tion­ship between cli­mate change, migra­tion and con­flict. A couple of years ago, the Defense Department’s Qua­dren­nial Defense Report called cli­mate change a secu­rity threat.

We’re ana­lyzing whether cli­mate change will push people together, and cause them to fight over resources,” said Tishler, who is using the migra­tion pat­terns of vic­tims of the Dust Bowl and Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina as case studies for the analysis.

As she put it, “It’s not entirely clear that cli­mate change causes migra­tion and migra­tion causes con­flict. We have to make sure we have all of the facts accounted for before making any policy changes to immi­gra­tion, or adjusting our defense budget.”

Tishler, who’s applying to New York Uni­ver­sity School of Law, said her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity has rein­forced her long-​​term goal of becoming an inter­na­tional human rights lawyer for Doc­tors Without Bor­ders or the Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights.

What makes me pas­sionate about law is its power to help people who wouldn’t nor­mally have a voice,” said Tishler. “It gives people who wouldn’t nor­mally be able to defend them­selves a fighting chance.”