Kimberley Thomas

Introduction

Assistant Professor

As a broadly-trained human-environment geographer, my research fundamentally focuses on flows—be they of water as it crosses international borders, people who migrate in response to environmental hazards, or capital as it leaches out of some parts of the world and pools in others. Such flows vary spatially and temporally and have vitally important consequences for human and environmental well-being.

I employ qualitative and quantitative methods to interrogate what processes produce and sustain flows, as well as their differential impacts on people and places. I draw on my diverse background in the social and natural sciences to conduct mixed-methods research that ranges from historical and ethnographic examination of human vulnerability to environmental hazards, to quantitative analysis of water-sharing treaties, to policy-based assessment of climate-compatible development aid. My research advances an approach to understanding environmental crises that pays critical attention to flows of materials, people, opportunities, and hazards. In so doing, it facilitates productive conversations about the ways resources – and the people who use them – are governed. My work on flows can be divided into two major research areas: international water governance and climate change adaptation finance.

International Water Politics

Nearly every non-island state sits partially or wholly within a transboundary river basin. My research examines how states negotiate conflicts around shared water resources, including issues of resource distribution, access, and hazards. This project focuses on conflicts between India and Bangladesh over the Ganges River and examines how uneven power dynamics between states affect international water cooperation. This work also draws attention to the relationship between state borders and international waterbodies, demonstrating how borders and international rivers influence each other and with what effects. 

Selected publications:

Thomas, K.A. 2017. The Ganges Water Treaty: 20 years of cooperation, on India's terms. Water Policy. 19(4): 724-740. https://doi.org/10.2166/wp.2017.109

Thomas, K.A. 2017. Governing international rivers in the Anthropocene. IN: Clarke-Sather et al. The shifting geopolitics of water in the Anthropocene. Geopolitics. 22(2): 332–359. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14650045.2017.1282279

Thomas, K.A. 2017. The river-border complex: A border-integrated approach to transboundary water governance. Water International. 42(1); 34-53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2016.1247236

Thomas, K. 2017. The "mundane violence" of international water conflicts. Education About Asia. 22(2): 36-41. Open-access pdf available here.

Adaptation Finance

While climate change may be a global phenomenon, its impacts are socially and spatially uneven, whereby those least responsible for the problem are the most vulnerable to its effects. My research examines how industrialized states address their responsibility for climate change through funding adaptation programs in developing countries. In this project, I evaluate the costs and benefits of foreign-financed infrastructure projects in the low-lying deltas of Vietnam and Bangladesh. This work is funded by the Council of Overseas American Research Centers and the Institute for Human Geography.

Selected publications:

Hardy, D. et al. Social science perspectives on climate change. United States Global Change Research Program. In press.

Research Interests

  • International water politics
  • political ecology
  • resource governance
  • vulnerability
  • hazards
  • climate change adaptation
  • Asia

Previous Appointments

  • A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania (2015-2017)

Education

  • PhD Geography, Rutgers University
  • MSc Oceanography, University of Hawaii
  • BSc Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Victoria

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 030: Environment and Society in a Changing World
  • GEOG 497: Capitalism, Labor, and the Environment
  • GEOG 530: The Politics of Water

Awards

J. Warren Nystrom Dissertation Award (2016)