My work bridges the natural and social sciences at the nexus of political ecology, political economy, and environmental science.

Committed to interdisciplinarity, I collaborate with engineers, and with natural, social and medical scientists on a range of research projects. My starting point for many of these projects is the insight that environmental processes and social practices (broadly defined, including economic, social and cultural dimensions) are mutually constituted.

I conduct research all over the world; most of my fieldwork has taken place in North America, Latin America, Europe, and south-east Asia (over a dozen countries to date).

Environmental governance and innovation is the major focus of my current research. While at Stanford on sabbatical in 2015/2016, I began my work on tech innovation and environmental governance, focusing on the evolution of conservation in response to environmental sensing and emerging technologies. Check out our recently published meta-review:

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

Water-related research interests include: regulation and impacts of hydraulic fracturing; water-energy nexus; water infrastructure governance;  water security (particularly landscape dimensions); rescaling environmental (and particularly water) governance; watershed health (and eco-health more generally); Indigenous water governance.

I have a strong commitment to policy, and regularly make contributions to policy debates.

Prospective students are very welcome to get in touch. I currently supervise students in  UBC’s Department of Geography as well as the graduate interdisciplinary environmental studies program at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability.

For more information on current water-related research projects, see our Program on Water Governance.

Current Funders

Genome BC/Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Water Network, the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.