The first two years of my PhD are funded by an IGERT grant (Integrative graduate education and research traineeship). The focus of our grant, partnered between University of California, Davis and Colorado School of Mines, is investigating the intersection of Climate, Water, and Society (CCWAS). These intersections cannot be tackled in disciplinary isolation, so a major focus of the program is to develop working relationships with graduate students studying the same issues from a different discipline. The expertise of my cohort and associates is the foundation of the work we have completed so far, which is detailed below. Meet the team:

IGERT 2015 Cohort
IGERT 2015 Cohort

(from left to right)
Stacy Roberts, environmental history of water use (History — Louis Warren)
Matthew Renquist, paleoclimatology and climate models (Geology — Isabel Montañez)
Alejo Kraus-Polk, floodplain restoration and agriculture (Geography — Brett Milligan)
Lauren Foster, hydroclimate modeling of rain-snow transitions in mountain regions  (Hydrologic Science and Engineering, CSM — Reed Maxwell)
Stephen Maples, integrating hydrologic models with climate predictions  (Hydrologic Sciences — Graham Fogg; NSF Graduate Research Fellow)
Katherine Hoeberling (Graduate Group in International Agricultural Development)
Ellen Bruno, agricultural decision-making and water policy (Agricultural and Resource Economics)
Will Turner, IV (Graduate Group in Atmospheric Science)


Corcoran California, August 27, 2014: A tractor tills dry land near the Tulare Lake basin. © Matt Black.

Conference: Water scarcity in the West
Our cohort spent 7 months in 2014-2015 designing, planning, and implementing a state of the science conference bringing together experts in water across disciplines- from hydrological modeling and climate to policy and economics. The conference focused on characterizing and coping with water scarcity across the west (videos):

  • Characterizing water scarcity over time: historian Louis Warren, climate scientist David Easterling, and paleoclimate scientist Frances Malamud-Roam
  • Characterizing water scarcity in different sectors: economist Richard Howitt, ecologist Peter Moyle, water manager Pat Mulroy
  • Coping with water scarcity, social science perspectives: geographer Richard Walker, historian Mark Fiege, economist David Sunding
  • Coping with water scarcity, natural science perspectives: hydrologist Reed Maxwell, climate scientist Daniel Swain, rangeland scientist Ken Tate

During the conference I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of the 6 speakers from the characterizing session. This panel illuminated the way history (both sociological and climatological) has influenced the way we understand and deal with current scarcity. One of the most poignant discussions during the panel occurred between Pat Mulroy, former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Richard Howitt, professor emeritus of resource economics at UC Davis about collaborative vs. free market strategies for addressing scarcity. The conference also provided valuable speaking experience as I was asked to deliver the closing comments from our cohort of planners.

Not being willing to pass up on an opportunity, we interviewed all the speakers, including the keynote speaker, John Laird, California Secretary of Natural Resources, and invited documentary photographer, Matt Black. From these interviews we were able to piece together broadly informed perspectives on certain issues of scarcity. These led to publications in The Conversation, an outlet for journalists and scientists to provide informed science news for the public, and in The California Water Blog:
In a water-scarce West of the future, who will be hit hardest?
Is California’s drought a ‘new normal’?

Stacy Roberts, the historian of the group, and I also wrote a piece on how Pat Mulroy, former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, began changing the politics of water scarcity in the Colorado River Basin for the peer-reviewed, multimedia outlet Environment and Society Arcadia:
Citizens of a Watershed

Our work continues into 2015-2016. We are mentoring the next cohort and helping them to plan and implement their conference. We are also working on a team publication, looking at the way clearly defined interdisciplinary collaborations can provide potential solutions to gaps in California’s water management.

Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon: an interdisciplinary experience
My time at UC Davis connected me with the opportunity to raft