EDGES member Graham McDowell has successfully completed his PhD degree from UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability. His PhD thesis was titled “Adaptation to glacio-hydrological change in high mountains“. Graham has accepted a position as Project Leader for the Canadian Mountain Assessment, a flagship initiative of the recently established Canadian Mountain Network. In this role, Graham is affiliated with the Department of Geography at University of Calgary, where he is working directly with Shawn Marshall (Science Advisor for Environment and Climate Change Canada). He was also recently awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship, to be announced shortly.
PhD Thesis Abstract: The intersection of climate-related glacio-hydrological changes and persistent socio-economic marginalization is leading to widespread vulnerabilities in many high mountain communities. This situation has raised awareness of significant gaps in our understanding of human adaptation in mountain areas, including what constitutes cogent adaptation research in mountainous contexts, what we know (or do not know) about the diverse vulnerabilities and adaptation needs of mountain communities at the frontlines of climate change, and how responses to glacio-hydrological changes can proceed in ways that are both socially and ecologically tenable. In response, this dissertation: 1) develops an analytical framework for robust adaptation research in high mountain areas; 2) uses formal systematic review methods to critically evaluate existing mountain-focused adaptation research and actions vis-à-vis an original typology for the challenge of climate change in high mountain areas; 3) conducts a multi-sited, community-level assessment of lived experiences of glacio-hydrological changes in the Nepal Himalayas (upper Manaslu region) and Peruvian Andes (Cordillera Huayhuash region); and 4) evaluates prospects for meeting community-identified adaptation needs with adaptation support organized through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These efforts are informed by theoretical insights from glacio-hydrological sciences, human dimensions of climate change research, and socio-ecological systems thinking, as well as 160 household interviews, 34 key informant interviews, and 4 focus groups conducted in Nepal and Peru. The dissertation makes substantive contributions to how adaptation is studied in mountain systems as well as what we know about and can do to address growing adaptation needs in high mountain communities.