How do discourse and data come together in processes of environmental governance?  How can we design environmental governance processes to allow for shared learning, collaboration, adaptation, inclusivity, and meaningful dialog? 


contemplating the future of fossil groundwater  

In the 1970s, Colorado legislators and natural resource managers decided to set a 100-year life for the Denver Basin Aquifer.  Much of Colorado's post-war growth has hinged upon the use of this finite groundwater supply, as has a significant portion of urban and suburban development across the American West.  In this developing research project, I investigate how cities will respond to the reckoning that is approaching, asking questions such as:  How do we know how much water is left in dwindling aquifers and with what level of certainty?  How do people arrive at shared definitions of problems in subsurface that are invisible to the eye?  Who speaks for the subsurface in policy debates, why, how, and to what effect?  How will we arrive at more sustainable and resilient solutions? 


engaging with energy legacies and transitions

After a brisk boom over the past decade, oversupply of petroleum has led to a drop in prices. This "bust" has brought a trend of shutting down wells, either permanently or temporarily. A wide range of stakeholders are improvising procedures to manage this new phase -- and yet, the history of the American West holds, in a multiplicity of abandoned mines, a century and a half's worth of directly relevant case studies. In summer 2017, the Center of the American West convened a workshop for coming to grips with the history and material impact of Western mining, and for applying that understanding to the current circumstances of Western oil and gas production. This workshop, and future projects, present an opportunity to bring scientists, engineers, historians, and policy scholars into an innovative, dynamic, and consequential conversation.

Principal Investigator: P. Limerick; Co-PIs: A. Kroepsch, J. Silverstein, S. Ge, J. Fisk

Funding: National Science Foundation

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making energy debates more publicly accessible

Unconventional oil and gas development is not an easy subject for productive conversation. It demands the use of technical language. Much of the action takes place in the depths of the earth, and therefore out of the public eye. And if those two factors were not enough to frustrate even the most determined of conversationalists, here is another: finding sources of trustworthy information requires skill, patience, and even self-examination. At the Center of the American West, we produced a glossary of useful terms, turns of phrase, and communication pitfalls to avoid -- in English and in Spanish -- to help make today's energy debates more accessible for people who are trying to get their bearings in otherwise noisy, confusing, and tense terrain.

Coauthors: W. Rempel, P. Limerick, University of Colorado

Funding: National Science Foundation