We are in the midst of an extraordinary time of planetary transformation. Alongside the ample evidence of overexploitation, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and human suffering, there are also signs of what deep ecologist Joanna Macy calls “the Great Turning” – a shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization. Fueled by a growing realization that we have the technical knowledge, communication tools and material resources to meet our needs without destroying our world, this transition is manifesting in three dimensions: actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings; analysis of structural causes and the creation of structural alternatives; and a shift in consciousness. My research and teaching contribute to each of these three dimensions, focusing on the human dimensions of natural resource management and conservation challenges in the American West.
Most of my projects take place on rural, agricultural, working landscapes involving both public and private lands in the West, and they all deal with various aspects of environmental governance – the processes of decision-making involved in the control and management of the environment and natural resources.
I am especially interested in how laws and institutions evolve to reflect changing geographies and under what conditions they can facilitate transformation in practical, political, and personal spheres. My work reflects a belief that collaborative and interdisciplinary solutions to conservation challenges involving all affected stakeholders are likely to be more durable and equitable than ones that are top-down or purely technical.
Throughout my research history, I have worked to facilitate transformation to a more just and sustainable society by working with a diversity of stakeholders, bridging the gap between opposing views, and identifying innovations in collaborative conservation, drawing on tools and insights from sustainability science, social-ecological systems theory, rural geography, and political ecology.
I regularly collaborate with environmental and geospatial scientists to produce policy-relevant, interdisciplinary analyses of social-ecological dynamics associated with agricultural landscapes and riverscapes on the region’s public and private lands.
I believe that the climate crisis confronting us must be addressed through an integrated approach involving a shift to renewable energy, protection and restoration of nature, and a transition to regenerative agriculture.
Major themes in my research include:
– Human dimensions of climate change – research on how people and places are impacted by climate change, why some communities are more vulnerable, and innovative approaches to adaptation and mitigation, including regenerative agriculture, beaver-related stream restoration, and other natural climate solutions
– Biodiversity conservation – research on governance mechanisms aimed at protecting and restoring nature, including laws like the Endangered Species Act, institutional arrangements involving payments for ecosystem services, and incentive programs that reflect an appreciation of the links between social and ecological resilience
– Rural sustainability – research on strategies for engaging local and regional stakeholders and sovereign tribal nations in the development of solutions to conflicts around natural resource management on working landscapes, including collaborative, community-based conservation, the co-production of new knowledge, and other Radical Center innovations
Current work is focused on the social, cultural, and psychological aspects of ranchers’ and farmers’ decisions to transition to regenerative agriculture, institutional arrangements that support their transition, and implications for their capacity to adapt to social, economic and environmental change.
I welcome inquiries and applications from prospective graduate students interested in helping me with this work. I advise students pursuing MS and PhD degrees in Geography and the MS degree in Water Resource Policy and Management within the Water Resources Graduate Program.