Water Institute Graduate Fellows Program: 2015 Cohort

Hydrologic transformation in the Amazon basin: reconciling economy, society, and the environment in the world’s largest watershed

The goal for the 2015 Water Institute Graduate Fellows cohort is to bring together Amazon Dams Network (ADN) faculty and graduate fellows from the biophysical and social sciences to investigate the complex and interconnected set of impacts brought about by the construction and operation of hydroelectric dams and associated infrastructure in the Amazon. The ADN was initiated in 2012 as an interdisciplinary effort to provide an integrated understanding of the two-way links between energy production, environmental conservation and human well-being in the Amazonian region. The program is hosted in the Tropical Conservation and Development Program in the Center for Latin American Studies, which accumulates more than 30 years of experience on training, research and capacity-building in the region. The faculty-student cohort will collaboratively carry out research to fill critical knowledge gaps in a variety of interdisciplinary research themes:

  • interactions among deforestation, land use, and hydrology;
  • feedbacks between watershed processes and riverine ecohydrology;
  • fisheries dynamics in transforming watersheds;
  • land conflict and social contention in the wake of dam projects;
  • dam impacts on economy, deforestation, and disease; and
  • economic transformation of the Amazon Basin from massive infrastructure buildup

A principal focus of the 2015 WIGF program is the academic training and professional development of a cadre of motivated and creative young scientists committed to seeking solutions to the growing set of complex, global challenges facing society. Through the program, fellows will build three primary proficiencies: 1) competence in their research area; 2) the ability to work collaboratively across disciplines and to bridge the gap between academy and society to create new actionable knowledge and insight; and 3) an ability to communicate and teach complex topics to a global audience with a diversity of educational and cultural backgrounds. Students will gain disciplinary proficiency though coursework and research, and will develop and hone skills in collaboration, communication, and teaching through a set of integrative activities, including:

Education – The 2015 WIGF program aims to broaden Fellows’ disciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths. The educational experience will blend experiential learning, academic course work, research, training and service. Each Fellow will take a set of core courses focusing on interdisciplinary research and practice. A biweekly seminar of the faculty-student cohort (and additional project participants) will focus on pertinent scientific literature, current developments in the Amazon, and professional growth. Fellows may also be asked to teach courses as part of their educational training.
Research – Each Fellow will have a home department (i.e., Environmental Engineering Sciences, Geography, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, or School of Natural Resources and Environment) and will craft a dissertation around one of the select research themes, which contributes to the overall program of research on the hydrologic transformation in the Amazon basin. Participating faculty and fellows will bring their expertise to the team and should be fully committed to developing an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to problem solving.
Outreach – Opportunities for professional development and international engagement will consist of: (1) webinars to enable frequent interaction with Brazilian colleagues; (2)student development of interactive learning modules to communicate about research focal areas to the broader society ; and (3) one or more trips to visit Amazonian watersheds in order to interact with stakeholders and collaborators in Brazil.