Participating Faculty & Research Components

2015 Cohort

Click each faculty member’s name for more detailed information.

Participating Faculty

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Kaplan

Assistant Professor, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences

Expertise: Dr. David Kaplan is a hydrologist and environmental engineer interested in elucidating the intersections between watershed and ecosystem processes though monitoring and modeling of coupled ecohydrological systems. Dr. Kaplan has worked extensively with water and environmental management agencies to tie hydrological modeling to ecological outcomes and has coupled watershed and hydrodynamic models with empirical habitat-suitability and life cycle ecosystem models to predict restoration effects and guide water management. He has delivered invited lectures on wetland ecology and statistical hydrology to national and international audiences and has ongoing ecohydrological research in the US, Costa Rica and the Brazilian Amazon.

Goals of the Watershed and Riverine Ecohydrology Component: Hydraulic infrastructure development, land use change, and climate change all play major roles in driving watershed hydrology, with cascading impacts to linked ecological and human systems. The goal of this research effort is to improve our understanding of coupling between watershed processes and riverine ecohydrology to address two questions:

Question 1: How will projected hydraulic development, land use change, and climate change combine to affect ecologically significant indicators of hydrologic alteration (IHA; Richter et al., 1996)?

Question 2: Can alternate dam design (e.g., run-of-the-river vs. large reservoir) ameliorate ecological impacts? If so, what are the trade-offs between ecological impacts, operational capacity, reservoir and dam longevity, and susceptibility to climate variability?

Methods: We will adapt and apply watershed and river channel models in focal watersheds. Models will be built and calibrated using publicly available climate, land-cover/land-use, and hydrologic/ water quality data. Hydrological modeling will: 1) serve as a foundation (i.e., tool) for linking hydrology and other SES elements; 2) provide the means to build and test additional models (e.g., linking hydrology to fish, fisheries, and floodplain forests); and 3) support communication of development-environment tradeoffs among social actors, including dam designers.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Hydrology-fish interactions (w/ Lorenzen); land cover-watershed processes (w/ Bohlman); connections between floodplain inundation-human disease and displacement (w/ Bohlman, Valle and Simmons).

Dr. Stephanie Bohlman

Assistant Professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Expertise: Dr. Stephanie Bohlman is a forest ecologist interested in understanding landscape levels changes in forest structure and function. To address questions related to how forests function, and how forests are expected to change in the future in response to natural and human drivers, Dr. Bohlman uses a combination of field data, remote sensing and models. Much of Dr. Bohlman’s work is in tropical forests, including Panama and Brazil, as well as in the US.

Goals of the Deforestation, Land Use, and Hydrology Component: Dams cause significant land use change and deforestation via: (a) direct deforestation from reservoir impoundment and construction of transmission lines and access roads (b) indirect deforestation from dam-associated land-use change from human displacement, urbanization, increased forest product exports, etc. and (b) changes in riparian forests from altered hydrology. The goal of this research effort is to understand and quantify these forest and land use changes, focused on two questions:

Question 1: In rivers where dams have been built, how much deforestation and alteration of upland and riparian forests can be attributed to the indirect effects of dam construction and operation?

Question 2: How do scenarios based on different land use regulation, development patterns and mitigation strategies alter the pathways of these indirect effects and to what extent do they change the rate of forest change?

Methods: Remote sensing data and derived land cover maps will be used to determine historical patterns of land cover, including upland and riparian forests, in the focal watersheds. We will use socioeconomic and biophysical data to model drivers of land cover change in the absence of dams, and use these models to determine how dam construction and operation have altered these land use change trajectories. For riparian forests, we will use hydrologic models and remote sensing data to determine flooding extent and forest structure in systems with and without dams.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Hydrology-floodplain forest interactions (w/ Kaplan); land use changes associated with altered population dynamics (w/ Simmons), impacts of riparian and upland forest change on health (w/ Valle) and fisheries (w/ Lorenzen); connections to regional governance and economics (Walker).

Dr. Kai Lorenzen

Professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation and School of Natural Resources and the Environment

Expertise: Kai Lorenzen is a trans-disciplinary fisheries scientist. His research integrates quantitative ecology with human dimensions and engages closely with management initiatives. He is particularly interested in the management and conservation of aquatic resources within human-dominated ecosystems.

Goals of the Fisheries Component: Fisheries are an important source of food, livelihood, and recreation in the Amazon. Hydrologic transformations and associated changes in fish ecology, resource access and livelihoods, and demand for fisheries products impact fisheries in multiple, synergistic ways. Fisheries are thus closely inter-linked with many other components in the Amazon SES. The goal of this research effort is to improve our understanding and ability to predict the response of fish and fisheries to hydrologic and associated demographic and economic transformations, focusing on two interrelated questions:

Question 1: How will projected hydraulic development and associated demographic and economic changes combine to affect fish ecology, fisheries exploitation, and the role of fisheries in livelihoods?

Question 2: Can alternate dam design, operation and fisheries management measures ameliorate fisheries impacts of hydrologic transformations?

Methods: This component will develop novel bio-socio-economic fisheries system models and confront model outputs with data from detailed case studies in the focal watersheds. Models will build on existing models of fish population dynamics under hydrological transformations, stock manipulations, and fishing effort dynamics. Our approach will additionally account for livelihoods changes and governance transformations within the overall SES modeling framework.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Hydrology-fish ecology interactions (w/Kaplan); land cover change in floodplain areas that are important fish habitat and fishing grounds (w/ Bohlman); impact of human demography and displacement on demand for fisheries products and fishing-based recreation (w/ Simmons).

Dr. Cynthia Simmons

Professor, Department of Geography

Expertise: Dr. Cynthia Simmons is a human geographer whose research and teaching program falls within Nature-Society Studies. Much of her research examines contentious geographies – environmental scarcity, social contention, and governance. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Florida. More information can be found here.

Goals of the Social Contention Component: To elaborate on contentious land dynamics that unfold in response to large-scale infrastructure development projects, with a specific focus on the Amazonian hydroelectric dam projects. The proposed infrastructure projects involve huge uncertainty and risk. To limit uncertainty, the Brazilian government mandates elaborate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which seek to identify the balance between benefits and costs. Although hydropower projects will improve quality of life for some, unanticipated costs will surely result, which may be of sufficient magnitude to neutralize gains. This research component focuses on contentious land dynamics that emerge in response to large-scale infrastructure development projects, a serious social impact that has received limited consideration in the approved EIAs. Although policy and scholarship has addressed the plight of indigenous populations, comparatively less attention has been given to the impacts on the riverine peoples and landless settlers, the vast majority of whom have insecure land rights and therefore no guarantee for indemnification. Complicating social contention is the growing demand for land in the project vicinity as in-migration intensifies with individuals seeking jobs and opportunity, many of which stay long after the construction is complete. Others settle in the region for purely speculation, anticipating land values to rise in the wake of development. The myriad of actors engaged in the struggle increases as social movement organizations (local and international) and civil society advocates take up the mantle of these populations in their confrontation with the government and capitalist interest. Experience has shown that growing social contention, and at times violent land conflict, occurs in the wake of dam projects. The graduate fellow is expected to focus their dissertation research on this theme, and conduct an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach that will shed light on these contentious interactions in the study region. For greater details please communicate directly with Dr. Simmons.

Dr. Denis Valle

Assistant Professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Expertise: Denis Valle is a environmental scientist/statistical modeler with interest on development issues in the Amazon region. He is an Assistant Professor in UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and he teaches statistical modeling courses of life sciences. More information can be found here.

Goals of the “Dam Impacts on Economy, Deforestation, and Disease” Component: The goal of this research effort is to quantify the large-scale impact of hydroelectric dams on three main interrelated social-ecological domains: economic growth, deforestation, and disease burden. We will focus on answering the following questions:

Question 1: What are the hidden large-scale impacts or benefits of dam construction in this region?

Question 2: Does the magnitude of these impacts and benefits depend on site characteristics? These results could be valuable to generate more targeted mitigation strategies.

Methods: A critical technical challenge is determining what would have happened in the absence of the dam (i.e., the counterfactual). Because experiments involving random allocation of dams are clearly impossible, we will use a variety of statistical modeling approaches to tackle this problem including spatial-temporal models (Banerjee et al., 2004), sophisticated matching methods (e.g., propensity score matching based on ensemble methods; Lee et al., 2010), and statistical models that flexibly estimate the response surface (Hill, 2011).

Interdisciplinary Connections: We will apply these methods to both primary and secondary (e.g., census and remotely sensed data) data. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this topic, this component will benefit from close collaboration with Co-PIs Dr. Bohlman (land-use land-cover change), Dr. Simmons and Dr. Walker (impact on local and regional economies), and Dr. Kaplan (changes in disease risk induced by hydrological changes).

Collaborating Faculty

These faculty are on the project team but are not major advisors to a Fellow

Dr. Bette Loiselle

Director, Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies & Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation

Dr. Simone Athayde

Research Associate & Coordinator, Amazon Dams Network, Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies

Jynessa Dutka-Gianelli

Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Forest Resources & Conservation

Carolina Rodrigues da Costa Doria

Professor, Department of Biology, Federal University of Rondônia

Elineide Marques

Professor, Department of Biology, Federal University of Tocantins