DU IRISE Postdoc Fellow is Exploring Issues of Environmental Justice Between the U.S. and India

Did you know this week is National Postdoc Appreciation Week? Here at DU we are so thankful for the amazing contributions made by our postdoc fellows. They are such an important part of our scholarly mission and we’re excited to take this week and celebrate all their inspiring research. Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Pranietha Mudliar, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in Environmental Justice and Sustainability at DU’s Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)equality (IRISE). IRISE  is designed to support research and creative work dedicated to issues of (in)equality, social justice, and inclusivity. Under this initiative, departments, programs, and units on campus have the opportunity to engage and mentor promising scholars in their field or in an associated field. Below Pranietha shares a little bit about her journey as a doc student and what she’s doing now as a IRISE postdoc fellow:

Researcher: I graduated from Ohio State University in August 2016 with a Ph.D. in Environment and Natural Resources. My interdisciplinary mentorship committee consists of Dr. Sarah Bexell (Graduate School of Social Work), Dr. Chad King (Sustainability Coordinator), Dr. Andy Goetz (Geography), Dr. Karin Wedig (Korbel School of International Studies), Susan Daggett (Sturm College of Law), and Patience Crowder (Sturm College of Law). I works closely with Dr. Wedig on fisheries governance and Dr. Bexell on teaching and additional research.

Dissertation Research: As a doc student I was driven by the question of how social and economic inequalities among resource users affect water management strategies in developed and developing contexts. I synthesized theories from collaborative environmental governance, common-pool resources, and collective action to uncover conditions and institutions that promote collective action in socio-culturally heterogeneous groups in rural West Virginia, U.S. and rural Karnataka, India. I then examined whether these institutions address racial and caste-related inequalities. My findings indicated that institutions that promote collective action are actually repositories of power that merely mute racial and caste differences without challenging existing power asymmetries.

Research at IRISE: I am conducting a cross-national analysis of how adaptive governance can advance fisherfolks’ capacities to participate in and shape the outcomes of fisheries resource management in the Lake Victoria basin in East Africa. Specifically, I am comparing the socio-economic and political conditions in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania that create opportunities and barriers for the emergence of adaptive governance of fisheries in response to declining stocks of Nile Perch (Oreochromis niloticus) in the Lake Victoria basin. In our research, we found that even in the presence of enabling factors (networks, learning leadership, and trust) that facilitate transition to adaptive governance, widespread poverty among local resource users, relatively low state-institutional capacities, and institutionalized power asymmetries prevent such transitions.

In another research project, I am examining factors that contribute to the sustainability of collaborative watershed partnerships in the U.S. and in India. I am collaborating with Groundwork Denver, a non-profit working on watershed management in the lower Bear Creek in Denver, to undertake this research.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: Finding a work-life balance was one of my biggest challenges as a doctoral candidate. Doing a Ph.D. is a full-time job with a myriad of conference and paper deadlines, teaching and grading responsibilities, conducting dissertation research, in addition to taking courses at the same time, which can take a toll on a student who is just starting out. Through the course of my doctoral career, I learned the importance of carving out time for myself and activities outside of school and breaking my work into smaller, manageable chunks.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: As a graduate student, while finishing up with the dissertation must be a top priority, collaborating with other graduate students and faculty on other projects is a good way to get publications out of the door. Working on projects other than the dissertation gives you opportunities to expand upon the breadth of your experience in conducting research and build valuable and supportive networks with fellow graduate students.