Nathan Sayre, Professor

Closed (1) Exploring Climate Extremes in California: the Mega-flood and Drought of 1861-1865

Applications for Fall 2018 are now closed for this project.

I hope to write a historical geography of the mega-flood of 1861-62 and the subsequent severe drought of 1862-65 and use it to think about California today and into the future. The flood put Sacramento under 10 feet of water, and inundated most of the Central Valley for as much as six months' time. The drought wiped out the remnants of Spanish and Mexican dominance in landownership, especially in the livestock sector, ushering in Anglo control of rural California. The two events have almost never been explored together, however, as manifestations of climate variability and its impacts on communities, societies and landscapes. Today, vastly more people and infrastructure lie in the path of climate extremes, and extreme events are projected to grow more common and more severe as climate change advances. How can the events of 1861-1865 help us understand what California faces going forward?

The project is in the very early stages, and I seek an apprentice to help collect primary materials from archives located principally in the Bancroft Library. These begin with newspapers from throughout California for the years 1860-1870, of which there are many. Memoirs, diaries, letters, and photographs will also be important. At this point I want to cast the net wide and pretty much anything that documents what happened in concrete detail is worth collecting.
The apprentice can expect to learn archival research skills across an array of Bancroft holdings. Down the road, the project will probably involve other kinds of sources--government reports, scientific studies, maps--and other kinds of skills.
I am working in loose collaboration with Prof. John Chiang, a climate scientist in my department who is studying extreme rainfall patterns such as the "atmospheric rivers" that occur in California. He has a URAP student researching the biophysical and climate literature about climate extremes, especially extreme rainfall events.
The new URAP student can expect to participate in regular meetings with Prof. Chiang, his URAP student, and myself, to discuss how to bring archival materials into fruitful dialogue with more scientific data sources and theories.

Qualifications: A strong interest in archival research and an appreciation for how much fun it can be--even if it may sometimes seem tedious! Curiosity coupled with patience and attention to detail: you need to be ready to follow a new lead at any time, judge how far to take it, and keep close track of all the details along the way (precise source information, for example). An interest in California history and climate, and more generally in the interactions between societies and the environment.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated
Related website:

Closed (2) In the shadow of the wolf: human-wildlife conflict and land use politics in the New West

Applications for Fall 2018 are now closed for this project.

Following a lengthy campaign of private and federally-funded efforts to shoot, trap, and poison in the interest of colonial settlement and livestock production, by the 1930s gray wolves (Canis lupus) had been virtually extirpated from the American West. Mid-century scientific and cultural revaluation of megafaunal predators, however, resulted in several decades of federal investment in wolf conservation and return. Reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in 1995 and 1996, gray wolves made an extraordinary comeback - one of the major conservation achievements of the 20th century. Yet as they have increased in number and range, socio-political conflict with rural residents has reignited, particularly around predation as a threat to livestock production and rancher survival.

The Wood River Wolf Project (WRWP), a collaboration between sheep producers, environmental organizations, and government agency representatives in Blaine County, Idaho, has pursued wolf-livestock coexistence through the deployment of nonlethal deterrents and human presence since 2007. Grazing thousands of sheep in the Sawtooth Mountains while boasting the lowest wolf depredation loss rates in the state, the WRWP has gained international attention and been promoted as a model of wildlife conflict minimization, promising the possibility of a peaceful end to the wolf wars.

Despite twenty years of opportunity for producer adaptation, the relatively minor measured economic impacts of depredation, and the availability of nonlethal predation management strategies, opposition to wolves has grown increasingly forceful and polarized - hostility, then, appears to be about about much more than just an agricultural pest. While the WRWP has shown coexistence to be materially possible (against claims from more extreme ranchers and environmentalists), policy and economic obstacles have hindered the broader expansion of its approach, while political enrollment on both sides has made the wolf question a battlefront over which deeply-rooted struggles around public lands and the future of the West are fought.

PLEASE NOTE: Project to be supervised by Jeff Vance Martin, PhD candidate in Geography (networking with faculty advisors around various aspects of the project may be possible).

This project provides an opportunity for motivated undergraduates to assist with the completion of a PhD dissertation research project in the post-fieldwork stages. Research has been (mostly) completed, but data needs to be organized, analyzed, and converted into completed works. While much of this is ‘grunt work,’ there is also opportunity for self-directed research as well as the potential for a motivated assistant to contribute (with co-authorship credit) to an academic journal article.

Work will involve a combination of tasks over one or two semesters, tailored to the needs of the project and skills and interests of the undergraduate apprentice:
- Transcription of interview recordings, minor data entry;
- Organization and analysis of collected archival documents;
- Coding of interviews, field notes, and documents (use of qualitative data analysis software, likely NVivo or MaxQDA);
- Regional political economic and historical research in collaboration with UC Berkeley library Data Lab;
- Citation management (via Zotero) and creation of annotated bibliographies and/or contribution to literature reviews;
- Possible (Spring 2019) cartographic, data visualization efforts.

Apprentices can expect regular meetings with JVM to plan work and discuss findings/efforts, as well as mentorship and assistance with skill training through resources on campus.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Jeff Vance Martin, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicant should have an interest in mixed methods social science research on environmental questions (background in the social sciences or humanities appreciated, as well as experience/comfort with interdisciplinarity/cross-disciplinary methods and conversations). Applicant should be a self-motivated, independent worker, with ample curiosity and analytical skill appreciated. English fluency required, ideally with some familiarity with regional dialect(s) of the American West. Technically speaking, an ideal candidate will have experience with some or all of the following*: - Creating annotated bibliographies and/or literature reviews, including Zotero/citation management software and critical analysis of texts/arguments; - Transcription software, qualitative data analysis software/packages (e.g. NVivo, MaxQDA, similar); - Cartography/GIS and/or data visualization tools (bonus, but appreciated). * JVM (PhD candidate) can provide/coordinate some level of training for the right candidate!

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Closed (3) Building a GIS of western coastal and marine India

Applications for Fall 2018 are now closed for this project.

This project seeks to build a detailed geographic information system (GIS) of historic and contemporary demographic, socioeconomic and ecological data for the western marine territory and coastal belt of India.

As an agrarian country, India’s population settlement, political power, social hierarchy, colonial appropriation and economic might have historically been centered in and focused on inland kingdoms, territories and capitals. Excepting key nodes of maritime trade, India’s lengthy coastline has largely been a marginalized space. In particular, fisheries and fishing communities have been peripheral to and rendered backwards by both colonial and post-colonial state planning and policy institutions.

However, in the past three decades of India’s economic neoliberalization, new development and settlement patterns are rewriting coastal landscapes and altering human-ocean relations. Coastal territories and inshore waters are increasingly given over to industrial development, intensified maritime trade, neoliberal aquaculture and middle-class tourism. Similarly, offshore marine spaces that were previously the domain of salty fishers are now subject to an explosion of mineral prospecting, shipping and pollution.

These changes have been largely unstudied from a regional geographic perspective at the scale of the coast. To that end, this research project seeks to build a multivariate GIS. This GIS will fit within a larger study of the political ecology/economy and environmental history of Indian marine fisheries.

The research apprentice will have the opportunity to learn and practice GIS skills related to public data collection/harmonization, georeferencing, spatial analysis and more. This will include a crash course in multivariate, large-n data analysis and applied statistics. As the work advances, the apprentice may also become involved in remote sensing/satellite imagery analysis. Finally, the apprentice will by default become immersed in demographic, social, ecological and development patterns and history within India.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Adam Jadhav, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Applicants should have a strong interest in GIS and spatial data research and analysis, as well as the patience needed to work on sometimes-tedious data management and dataset construction. Any background in development studies, environmental policy and/or Indian history will be helpful.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated