Lessening humanity’s impact on the environment requires structuring public decision-making processes to yield environmentally favorable and socially equitable effective decisions, while working with the constraints of real people and organizations. Our research focuses on the interaction between people, regulatory processes, infrastructure, and the environment. Specifically, we seek to identify ways (1) to make environmental planning and management processes more flexible and adaptive and (2) to redesign the permitting and operations of large infrastructure (especially water and energy) to meet more diverse environmental and social needs.
Because solving environmental problems requires interdisciplinary approaches, our group draws on the fields of environmental governance, public management, and water resources engineering to link the design of environmental decision-making processes to their long-term performance. We use both qualitative and quantitative analysis, including surveys, econometric modeling, archival research, computational text mining, case studies, and ethnography.
Text Mining of Environmental Impact Assessments
What can we learn about infrastructure governance from Environmental Impact Statements? What factors do federal resource managers consider in infrastructure siting? Does public participation influence the process? Do they learn from climate change? How do they incorporate environmental justice considerations? Funding: UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative
- How does stakeholder involvement affect environmental impact assessment?
- Environmental hazards, rigid institutions, and transformative change: How drought affects the consideration of water and climate impacts in infrastructure management
- NEPA and National Trends in Federal Infrastructure Siting in the United States
What are the geological, ecological, and institutional dimensions of the sediment system in coastal Southern California? Can participatory modeling help managers envision more sustainable sediment management practices? Funding: NOAA Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (PI: Brett Sanders)
What are key uncertainties in the movement of water from snowpack to rivers and groundwater in the Central Valley? How will the system change as precipitation varies, temperatures warm, and population grows? What policy and management approaches will help communities and the state manage its water system more effectively under climate change? Funding: UC Lab Fees Research Program (PI: Jeff Dozier)
What are the effects of drought, legal regimes, and economic shifts on water allocation tradeoffs between society and the environment in the Colorado Basin? Which states, regions, or sectors will win or lose under different climate and demographic scenarios? Funding: SESYNC (PI: Albert Ruhi)
Modeling the Social Ecology of Coastal Flood Risk
How might floods affect low-income and vulnerable populations in California? How might modeling and visualization tools improve these group’s resilience and recovery? Funding: NSF Coastlines & People (PI: Richard Matthew)
Past Research Projects
Collaborative Governance in FERC Hydropower Relicensing
What are the environmental and economic impacts of collaboration in the licensing and operation of hydropower facilities? Does collaborative development of computer simulation models affect stakeholder trust in and use of scientific information in planning processes? How do collaboration and uncertainty interact to produce effective resource management? How does stakeholder engagement evolve over time?
- Tracing process to performance of collaborative governance: A comparative case study of federal hydropower licensing
- Collaboration in federal hydropower licensing: Impacts on process, outputs, and outcomes
- Linking network structure to collaborative governance
- Does collaboration affect the duration of environmental permitting processes?
- Collaborative model development increases trust in and use of scientific information in environmental decision-making
- Collaborative governance: a tool to manage scientific, administrative, and strategic uncertainties in environmental management?
- Stakeholder involvement in collaborative regulatory processes: using automated coding to track attendance and actions
Building Efficient & Effective Environmental Permitting Processes
What factors lead to delay in approval of environmental permits? Do faster permitting processes have less stringent environmental protections? Does the timing of permitting delay affect overall project costs or benefits?
How can scientists and scholars develop abilities to become more creative and productive researchers?
- Creativity in Research: Book available from Cambridge University Press
- Research as Design: Developing Creative Confidence in Doctoral Students Through Design Thinking
- Reflecting, Iterating, and Tolerating Ambiguity: Highlighting the Creative Process of Scientific and Scholarly Research for Doctoral Education