My dissertation


paper 1

Irrigated agriculturalists’ perceptions of and adaptations to water scarcity in the context of climate change

At a time when scholars and practitioners are asking how we can pursue climate solutions in an era with growing government distrust, scientific skepticism, and an increasing rural-urban divide, understanding the cultural, political, and ecological dynamics that drive farmer and rancher behavior is more critical than ever. This first dissertation paper explores how individual and collective memories and experiences of past extreme weather shape current definitions and future expectations of climatic events in the Klamath Basin and how water scarcity is related to the governing policies and practices of transboundary water management. 

My dissertation seeks to understand how multi-stakeholder collaborative governance unfolds in the context of heightened political activism and natural resource stress fueled by climate change. My overall project examines the attempt to build collaborative solutions to water scarcity in the Klamath River Basin, a region traversing the Oregon-California border undergoing historic conflict and water governance changes, encompassing private, public (federal and state), and tribal water rights, and various stakeholder concerns. I am using multiple modes of qualitative inquiry, including archival research, policy and social media analysis, interviews, discussion circles, focus groups, and a unique mode of participatory research called “photovoice” to complete the three papers described below.

paper 2

Examining power, equity, and inclusion within Klamath Basin water governance processes and programs

In the literature on collaborative resource governance, power is often acknowledged as an important driver of inter-personal conflict. However, power operating across broad institutional settings that transcend geographic boundaries is still an area with limited attention. My second paper will identify the ways in which power manifests in the Klamath Basin’s multi-level water governance organizations and will uncover how power disparities can lead to differential outcomes and inequities for stakeholders.


paper 3

(Dis)trust and disillusionment in the State of Jefferson:
How a region’s separatist state of mind influences collaborative water governance

The goal of this third paper is to describe the anti-state ideology and activities known as the State of Jefferson. I seek to understand how the presence of this movement influences collaborative governance processes and outcomes in the Klamath Basin, which significantly overlaps with the proposed 51st state.

Hannah T. Whitley

PhD Candidate | Rural Sociology & Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment