My research interests take me around Southeast Asia and allow me to explore different ecosystems, fish fauna, and human cultures. Each place is unique and each faces its own conservation challenges.
Ngao River, Thailand
Flowing nearly straight south to north, the Ngao River Basin is largely inhabited by ethnic Karen communities who rely on river-derived foods like fish and snails and use its waters for drinking, bathing, and irrigating crops. In response to perceived declines in fish abundance, Ngao River communities have created conservation zones in which they do not allow harvest of fish. These areas hold substantially more fish than surrounding areas, suggesting this community-based conservation action is effective. However, as communities continue to grow in this mountainous region, the pressure on ecosystems to continue to provide important resources increases as well.
Tonle Sap, Cambodia
The Great Lake of Cambodia is often called the "heartbeat" of the Mekong River. It is Tonle Sap that fills each rainy season as the mighty Mekong fills its banks, reversing the flow of the Tonle River, and expanding the lake to four-times its dry season extent. It's this annual inundation and delivery of nutrient-rich sediments that is thought to drive the globally high levels of fish production. Fisherman harvest nearly 400,000 tons of fish from Tonle Sap annually, making it the world's largest inland fishery. However, dams constructed in China have already altered the annual flow regime, and additional proposed dams in the Mekong River Basin could have dramatic consequences for this regionally important fishery (Ziv et al., 2012).
Bago Division, Myanmar (Burma)
Myanmar recently held open democratic elections, but there remains much political uncertainty after decades of military rule and conflict. While there are many challenges facing the nation and its people, plentiful natural resources have been essential in providing food and materials for the resilient people of this country. However, increased access to foreign investment has resulted in a resurgence of interest in the hydropower potential of Myanmar's many rivers including the Irrawaddy, Sitang, and Salween. Developing sustainable energy sources will be crucial to alleviating poverty in this UN classified Least Developed Country, but care must be taken not to undercut the important resource provisioning provided from these diverse and productive rivers.