River Research Lab

 Current people and research projects:

LAB DIRECTOR

Denielle M. Perry

My current research agenda includes:

  • National Parks Service Colorado & Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit Grant – “Assessing Perceptions of Ecosystem Services Provided by Wild and Scenic Rivers”
  • Investigating Dynamic Interactions among Socio-Ecological Diversity, Connectivity, and Resilience to Inform the Future of River Conservation
  • Examining the creation and application of river conservation policies in Latin America, China, and Europe
  • The Evolution of China’s River Principles and Policies
  • Comparative policy analysis of water governance strategies for river protections around the globe

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Rachel Ellis

Masters student, Masters Candidate Sustainable Communities. Expected graduation Spring, 2020

My thesis, Exploring Anticolonial Protective Pathways for the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, examines how federal governance and indigenous community organizing can be utilized in the Little Colorado River (LCR) basin to protect the socio-ecological resources in the Confluence and, specifically, the Hopi Sipapuni. Substantial surface and groundwater use within the LCR basin threaten the water sources of the Confluence and springs in the LCR basin. Engaging an Anticolonial theoretical lens, I conduct semi-structured interviews with indigenous community organizers and federal land managers. I also analyze various policy and water laws with specific focus on the National Historic Preservation Act/Traditional Cultural Properties and the ongoing LCR Adjudication.   In my research I elucidate the impacts of colonization on this issue and the degree to which solutions can be anticolonial. In collaboration with Hopi-run Black Mesa Trust, I identify anticolonial protective pathways that highlight the centrality of reciprocal relationships, Indigenous Knowledges, and meaningful inclusion in policy and law processes. Ultimately, the struggle for water protection in the LCR is the struggle for protection of inherent Indigenous rights.   My career goals are to support community-driven, justice-oriented watershed management, conservation, and indigenous rights in the Southwest through education and advocacy. I’ve lived in the Southwest my entire life and am deeply committed to the protection of this region and its peoples. My research is supported by the Sustainable Communities program and the Community and University Public Inquiry initiative at NAU.

Stephannie de Souza Fernandes

Stephannie Fernandes

Masters student, Environmental Science and Policy, School of Earth and Sustainability. Expected graduation Spring, 2021

Prior to beginning the MSc program at NAU I worked as a lawyer in Brazil. Now my research focuses on the promotion of the harmonious development of the Amazon Basin, the cooperation among the Amazon States in the context of Latin American regional integration, and its socio-ecological implications. This research revolves around identifying policy options for the creation of an Amazon basin-wide conservation system for free-flowing rivers and ecosystem service protection. My long term career goals are to continue advocating for the environment and society. I wish to transform the knowledge gained in my master’s degree to address biodiveristy loss not only in Brazil but around the world.  In this sense, I want to improve the laws that regulate the environment usage, which does not always meet the interest and good of the population. In addition, I wish to pursue a doctoral degree.

Katie Guetz, Masters candidate, Environmental Science and Policy, School of Earth and Sustainability. Expected graduation Spring, 2020

My thesis research, Prioritizing Dam Removal Sites for Optimal River Restoration and Conservation in the Western U.S., focuses on restoring rivers and enhancing overall landscape connectivity and biodiversity by prioritizing dams for removal in 11 western states using geospatial analysis. This study area encompasses AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA and WY. Additionally, I am analyzing  altered watersheds, selected through this analysis, in order to better understand the impacts of dam removal on the geomorphology, biodiversity, and connectivity of riverine systems. Further, my research takes into consideration the socio-political aspect of dam removal and seeks to uncover where river restoration might be most successful. My research is supported by the Landscape Conservation Initiative Science-Policy Fellowship and the Henry Hooper Student Fund. My long-term career goal is to use interdisciplinary and research-based solutions to restore and manage degraded watersheds and surrounding fragmented lands in the western United States. As a native to the Intermountain West, I have witnessed a lot of the changes that have occurred across the landscape. I hope to use my background, education, and skills to assist in the restoration of these special places-rivers in particular. †

James Major, Masters candidate, Environmental Science and Policy, School of Earth and Sustainability. Expected graduation Spring, 2020

I am studying the suitability of rivers that are potentially eligible for designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. I graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Geography with focuses in GIS and Physical Geography. My interest in free-flowing rivers that was sparked while working on multiple river restoration and protection related projects at UO led me to join Dr. Perry’s lab at NAU in the Fall of 2018.  I intend on continuing to work towards protecting existing intact rivers and restoring degraded rivers upon completion of my M.S. in Spring of 2020.

Sarah Smith, Masters candidate, Environmental Science and Policy, School of Earth and Sustainability. Expected graduation Spring, 2020

My thesis research, entitled The Role of Conservation Policy in Preserving Ecosystem Services in New Mexico’s Gila River Network, examines the ecosystem services that exist in New Mexico’s Gila River and how conservation policies, including the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, may impact these services in the face of climate change and development proposals. My interest in this area of study stems from working as an outdoor guide and environmental educator within the Southwest’s public lands and rivers. Because my passion lies in teaching others about the importance of protecting our natural resources, I hope to work within the education or outreach sector of an organization that is committed to preserving our exceptional lands and waters. My research is supported in part by funding from American Rivers, New Mexico Wild, and the Henry Hooper Student Award. 

Riley Swanson

Riley Swanson

Masters student, Geology, School of Earth and Sustainability. Expected graduation Spring, 2020

My research interests are based in hydrogeology.  I am investigating the amount of groundwater contribution to the Colorado River for my thesis, Quantifying the Base Flow of the Colorado River Through a Water Budget Analysis. This study funded by the National Park Service and the US Bureau of Land Management involves a broad synthesis of extant data and the collection of new data where gaps exist in the literature.  Part of my research investigates the understudied drainage basins in southern Utah and Northern Arizona to quantify the base flow of the tributaries to the Colorado River in these regions.  Another aspect of this work involves identifying and evaluating the surface water and groundwater policies surrounding the river.  This research will shed light to on the water resource issues within the basin states and help water managers better allocate the resource. In my career I hope to continue to work in the water resource management field and help to balance the growing need for natural resources with what is sustainable.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

Daniel overlooking the Rio Pacuare, Costa Rica

Daniel Garcia

Bachelors of Science Environmental Studies & Sustainability. Expected Graduation Spring, 2020

My senior capstone internship, under the tutelage of Dr. Perry, is with the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly helping in the preparation of a bill proposal to protect its hydrological basin(s) from new hydroelectric dam development. In the future I would like a career in water resource management.

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NAU’s River Research Lab students can participate in activities such as this trip: Interdisciplinary SES faculty, graduate students, and alumni take to the river: Field-based learning about geology and policy on the Yampa River

School of Earth and Sustainability | School of Earth and Sustainability