karen bakker



Professor, Department of Geography, UBC (2011 — present)

After joining UBC as an Assistant Professor in 2002, I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2006, and to full Professor in 2011, the same year that I was awarded a Canada Research Chair. My department is regularly ranked within the top 10 in our discipline (QS worldwide rankings).

Founding Director and Co-Director, Program on Water Governance, UBC (2005 — present)

As Co-Director, I lead interdisciplinary research teams that include natural scientists, social scientists, and humanists. My role also includes strategic planning; fundraising; and international partnerships.


PhD, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University (1999)

Bachelor of Arts & Science (Honours, Minor in Physics), McMaster University (1995)

Academic/Research Fellowships (Selected)

Awards (Selected)

Research Highlights

Research Collaborations (Selected, Current)

I am currently a member of the the Decolonizing Water research collective, and the EU-funded Riverhood project team. I am also a member of policy-focused collaboratives, including the Coalition on Digital Environmental Sustainability and the Policy Network on Environment of the Internet Governance Forum.

Teaching/Supervision Highlights

I have taught at Oxford, Stanford, and UBC. Over the past two decades, I have taught (on average) 260 undergraduate students per year (three courses). I have also developed and delivered a MOOC on edX. In terms of graduate students, I have supervised/funded over 30 graduate and 60 undergraduate student research assistants. 

Board Memberships (Current)

Member, Researcher Council, National Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (2020 — present)

Council Member, National Research Council (2019 — present)

Member, Scientific Advisory Committee, Council of Canadian Academies (2018 — present)

Board Member, International Institute for Sustainable Development (2017 — present)

Member, Editorial Board, Global Environmental Change (2016 — present)

Member, Editorial Board, Geo: Geography and Environment (2014 — present)

Accredited Workplace Coach

Certified Workplace Coach: In 2015/2016, I completed an accredited coach training program  offered via the New Ventures West Institute, which leads to International Coaching Federation certification. I now volunteer my time as a pro bono workplace coach at UBC. The “integral” coaching method in which I was trained is inspired by thinkers like Hubert Dreyfus, Francisco Varela, and Carol Gilligan.

Science and Innovation Policy Advisor

I have served as an advisor/consultant to dozens of organizations, including: Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability; IPCC; National Round Table on Environment and Economy; OECD; UK DFID; UNDP; UNEP; UNESCO; UN-OHCHR; and the Internet Governance Forum.


English (bilingual); French (bilingual); Spanish (functional).

Books (Peer-Reviewed, Sole-Authored)

Bakker, K. (2022 in press). Listening to the Tree of Life. Princeton University Press.

Bakker, K. 2010. Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and the World’s Urban Water Crisis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Bakker, K. 2004. An Uncooperative Commodity: Privatizing Water in England and Wales. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Books (Peer-Reviewed, Edited)

Lankford, B., K. Bakker, M. Zeitoun, and D. Conway, eds. 2013. Water Security: Principles, Perspectives and Practices. London: Routledge.

Norman, E., A. Cohen, and K. Bakker, eds. 2013. Water without Borders? Canada, the United States, and Shared Waters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Bakker, K., ed. 2007. Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Books (Not Peer-Reviewed, Trade and E-Books)

Bakker, K. and C. Crane. (eds.) 2020. Water Teachings. Vancouver: University of British Columbia. ISBN: 978-0-88865-412-0 (e-book).

After consultation with my research collaborators, we decided to publish this book ourselves, in order to make it available free of charge to Indigenous community members for whom cost may be a barrier. See waterteachings.com and decolonizingwater.com.

Le Billon, K. (2012). French Kids Eat Everything. New York: HarperCollins.

Writing as Karen Le Billon, I am the author of two popular science books on children, food and families. French Kids Eat Everything (HarperCollins, 2012) was published in 15 countries and 12 languages, and featured widely in the media (including Good Morning America, New York Times Magazine, Guardian, Sunday Times), and awarded the Taste Canada Food Writing Award in 2013.

Articles and Chapters (Peer-Reviewed, Selected Examples)

I have published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Below, student names are underlined.


Bakker, K. and M. Ritts. 2021. Smart Earth: A meta-review and implications for environmental governance. In Nost, E., and J. Goldstein (eds.) The Nature of Data, University of Nebraska Press.

Bridge, G. and K. Bakker. Material Worlds Redux. 2021. In Eds. Himley, M., Havice, E., and Valdivia, G. Handbook of Critical Resource Geography. Routledge.

Ritts, M.  and K. Bakker. 2021. “Conservation acoustics: Animal sounds, audible natures, cheap nature.” Geoforum 124: 144-155.

Robb, D., J. Baka, C. Harrison, K. Bakker. 2021. Visualizing water-energy nexus landscapes. WIRES Water. http://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1548


Bakker, K., Ng, R., Mackworth, A., Knight, R., Leape, J., and Ritts, M. 2020. Digital technologies and dynamic resource management. IEEE SMARTCOMP. In 2020 IEEE International Conference on Smart Computing (SMARTCOMP), pp. 368-373. IEEE, 2020.

Baka, J., Hesse, A., Neville, K. J., Weinthal, E., & Bakker, K. 2020. Disclosing Influence: Hydraulic fracturing, interest groups, and state policy processes in the United States. Energy Research & Social Science70, 101734.

Robb, D. and K. Bakker. 2020. Planetary Voyeurism. Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture: LA + GEO. November. 12, 50-55. 


Bakker, K. and R. Hendriks. 2019. “Contested knowledges in hydroelectric project assessment: The case of Canada’s Site C Dam.” Special issue on “Contested Knowledges: Water Conflicts on Large Dams and Mega-Hydraulic Development.” Water. 11(3), 406 — 424.

Baka, J., Hesse, A., Weinthal, E., and K. Bakker. 2019. Environmental Knowledge Cartographies: Evaluating Competing Discourses in US Hydraulic Fracturing Rulemaking.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 1 — 20.

Behn, C., and K. Bakker. 2019. “Rendering Technical, Rendering Sacred: The politics of hydroelectric development on British Columbia’s Saaghii Naachii/Peace River.” Global Environmental Politics. 19(3), 98 — 119. DOI: doi.org/10.1162/glep_a_00518

Diver, S., Ahrens, D., Arbit, T., and K. Bakker. 2019. Entangling Colonial Entanglements: “Treatment as a State” Policy for Indigenous water co-governance. Global Environmental Politics. DOI: 10.1162/glep_a_00517

Kallis, G., Demaria, F., and Bakker, K. 2019. “Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. 2, no. 3 (2019): 431-450. doi.org/10.1177/2514848619869689

Ritts, M. and K. Bakker. 2019. New Forms: Anthropocene Festivals and Experimental Environmental Governance. Environment and Planning E, special issue on Environmental Data Infrastructures (Eds. Nost, E., and J. Goldstein). doi.org/10.1177/2514848619886974


Bakker, K. 2018. “Bienes Comunes versus MercancĂ­a: AlterglobalizaciĂłn y el derecho huano al agua en el hemisferio Sur.” In In Astudillo Pizarro, F. and Salamanca Villamizar, C. A. Recursos, Vinculos y Territorios: Inflexiones transversales en torno al agua. Buenos Aires: UNR Editora, pp 53-84.

Bakker, K., L. Harris, N. Joe, and R. Simms. 2018. “Indigenous Peoples and Water Governance in Canada: Regulatory Injustice and Prospects for Reform.” In Water Justice, ed. R. Boelens et al., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 193-209.

Bakker, K and M. Ritts. 2018. Smart Earth: A meta-review and implications for environmental governance. Global Environmental Change. 52: 201 — 211.

Baka, J., K. Neville, E. Weinthal, and K. Bakker. 2018. Policy Mobilities and Agenda-Setting at the Energy-Water Nexus: Constructing and Maintaining a Policy Monopoly in US Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation. Review of Policy Research. 35(3), 439 — 465.

Neville, K., Baka, J., Weinthal, E., and K. Bakker. 2018. “Corporate Disclosure and Investor-Activist Resolutions over Hydraulic Fracturing.” Review of International Political Economy. 26(1), 104 — 133.


Bakker, K. 2017. “The Business of Water.” In Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Water Policy, ed. K. Conca and E. Weinthal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bakker, K. 2017. “From a ‘State Hydraulic’ to ‘Market Environmentalist’ Paradigm: Changing Paradigms of Urban Water Supply in Developing Countries in the 20th Century.” In The UNESCO Water Book Project: Water and Humanity: Historical Overview, ed. V. Scarborough, 197—217.Paris: UNESCO.

Dunn, G., R. Brown, J. Bos, and K. Bakker. 2017. “The Role of the Science-Policy Interface in Sustainable Urban Water Transitions: Lessons from Rotterdam.” Environmental Science & Policy. 73 (2017): 71-79.

Neville, K., Baka, J., Gamper-Rabindran, S., Bakker, K., Andreasson, S., Vengosh, A., Lin, A., Nem Singh, J., and Weinthal, E. 2017. Debating unconventional energy: Social, political and economic implications. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 42, 241-266.

Most Cited Publications (Peer-Reviewed)

These stem from an earlier period when I was exploring environmental issues as they intersected with networked utility and infrastructure issues, but had not yet begun engaging specifically with digital tech.

Bakker, K. 2007. The “Commons” versus the “Commodity.”Antipode 39(3): 430—55. (1,087 citations)

Bakker, K. 2010. Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and the World’s Urban Water Crisis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (1,003 citations)

Bakker, K. 2004. An Uncooperative Commodity: Privatizing Water in England and Wales. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (958 citations)

Bakker, K., and G. Bridge. 2006. “Material Worlds? Resource Geographies and the ‘Matter of Nature.’” Progress in Human Geography 30(1): 1—23. (874 citations)

Bakker, K. 2005. “Neoliberalizing Nature? Market Environmentalism in Water Supply in England and Wales.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 95(3): 542—65. (865 citations)

Keynote/Invited Lectures (Selected)

I have given over 200 conference presentations and invited lectures during my career (including at Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, UCLA). Below are selected examples of talks I have given over the past decade, spanning several disciplines: computer science; environmental studies; geography; Indigenous studies; labour studies. (Student names are underlined.)

Bakker, K., Knight, R., Leape, J., Mackworth, A., Ng, R., Ritts, M. (2020) Digital Technologies and Dynamic Resource Management. IEE SMARTCOMP conference. Bologna (virtual), September.

Bakker, K. and M. Ritts (2021) Cheap Nature. Digital Ecologies Conference. Cambridge (virtual), March.

Bakker, K. (2021) Digital sensing, digital sustainability. Panel presentation. CODES: Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability Conference. Geneva (virtual), June.

Bakker, K. (2021) Diversity, equity and inclusion for working learners. Panel presentation. Working Learners Conference. Stanford (virtual), July.

Bakker, K., and D. Robb. (2020) Planetary Voyeurism. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Denver (virtual), April.

Bakker, K. (2020) Economic systems after COVID-19: Towards a more resilient and inclusive recovery for youth. International Economic Development Council. Washington (virtual). August.

Ritts, M. and K. Bakker. (2020) “Surveillance Capitalism: Nature, Conservation, Ethics.” University of Oslo School of Environmental Humanities. Oslo (virtual). December.

Bakker, K. Keynote Speaker: (2019) “The Future of Environmental Communication in an Era of Digital Disruption.” Conference on Communication and the Environment (COCE). International Environmental Communication Association (IECA). Vancouver. June.

Bakker, K. (2019) “Digital Earth: New frontiers in a wired world.” University of Waterloo.

Bakker, K. (2018) Digital Earth: Implications for 21st century environmental governance. University of Wageningen. December.

Bakker, K. (2018) Digital Earth. ETH Zurich. Zurich. May

Bakker, K. (2017) “Wiring Gaia at the Water-Energy Nexus: Indigenous water guardians and decolonizing water science.” University of California at Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz. January.

Hesse, A., Baka, J., Weinthal, E, Bakker, K. (2017) Knowledge Cartographies: Evaluating the Mobilization of Scientific Knowledge in US Hydraulic Fracturing Rulemaking. UCLA. May.

Bakker, K. (2016) “Big Data, Ecoinformatics, and Reforms to Environmental Governance: Indigenous Community-Based Water Monitoring and Water Governance.” Department of Earth Sciences, Stanford University. Palo Alto, May.

Bakker, K. (2016) “Water Governance and More-than-Human Digital Democracy: Countering ‘Soft Capture’ in Hydraulic Fracturing through Indigenous Community-Led Water Monitoring Systems.” Department of Geography, UCLA. Los Angeles:February.

Bakker, K. (2015) “Water and Climate Change Governance.” Centre for the Applied Study of Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University. Palo Alto, September.

Bakker, K. (2014) Hydroscape Urbanism. Graduate School of Design. Harvard University. April.

Cohen, A., and K. Bakker. (2013) “The Eco-Scalar Fix: Rescaling Environmental Governance and the Politics of Ecological Boundaries.” Annual Conference of the American Association of Geographers. AAG. Los Angeles, April.

Bakker, K. 2012. “Water Privatization.” Plenary lecture. Annual Conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS. Vancouver, February. 

Bakker, K. (2012) “Critiquing the Human Right to Water.” Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies Workshop. Harvard University. Boston, November.