My research investigates the human-environmental dynamics and histories of rivers. I focus in particular on river governance institutions and policy and their interaction with wide ecological and social processes and needs. I am particularly interested in efforts to protect or restore the natural dynamics of large rivers while also meeting diverse human needs through multi-jurisdictional river basin management. I’ve focused for ten years on the Columbia River system and am working on a book on a seventy-year history of regional Columbia River basin management. I am working toward a project on the Connecticut River, and also a broad comparative river governance project.
Further background: Research perspective and methods
In addition to training in human geography and experience working in river policy, I have background in both population ecology and fluvial geomorphology. I find persuasive the argument that long-term protection and restoration of river ecosystems requires retention or restoration of dynamic natural hydrological, geomorphological and ecological processes and connections. This, however, is a political and infrastructural challenge, for river management often works to control and alter rivers, interrupting natural processes and connections, in order to provide human benefits; and it often divvies up rivers’ benefits, and to a large extent, rivers themselves, to multiple political jurisdictions and user groups. Negotiating amidst these challenges to improve dynamic natural processes and connections, and to address unmet social needs, is a heroic, difficult, goal.
My research investigates and analyzes how such efforts play out over time to affect rivers’ natural and social systems in real-world practice. My methods include interviews, participant-observation, archival research, policy analysis, and GIS and spatial analysis of changing social and biophysical indicators.