Renewable Natural 

Resources Foundation



2015 Congress on Sustaining WEstern Water

Speaker Biographies



David Cleaves

David Cleaves is the former Climate Change Advisor of the U.S. Forest Service. In this role, he served the Forest Service Chief, executive leadership, and the field by coordinating activities related to climate change adaptation, mitigation, and communication. Dave was the primary spokesperson for the agency on the role of forests in climate change and led the implementation of the Forest Service’s nationwide strategy for weaving climate change response into policies, processes, and partnerships.

Dave was formerly the Associate Deputy Chief of Forest Service Research & Development, the agency's science and technology program. He has also been the director of the Rocky Mountain Research Station and staff director for national research programs in economics, forest products, social science, recreation and tourism, urban forestry, science education, and the Resources Planning Act assessment. Additionally, he led the agency's research and development programs in fire behavior and prediction, fuels management, planning and economics, and human dimensions.

Dave's specialty is decision science and risk analysis. He was formerly the national decision science specialist in the Forest Service where he developed methods and tools for improving environmental analysis and decision processes. Prior to his career in the Forest Service, he was a professor of forest marketing and economics at Oregon State University. Dave has a B.S. and M.S. from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in economics from Texas A&M University


Ellen Hanak

Ellen Hanak is director of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Water Policy Center and a senior fellow at the PPIC. Under her leadership, the center has become a critical source of information and guidance for natural resource management in California. She has authored dozens of reports, articles, and books on water policy, including Managing California’s Water. Her research is frequently profiled in the national media, and she participates in briefings, conferences, and interviews throughout the nation and around the world. Her other areas of expertise include climate change and infrastructure finance. Previously, she served as research director at PPIC. Before joining PPIC, she held positions with the French agricultural research system, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the World Bank. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland.



Thomas Harter

Thomas Harter has a B.S. in hydrology from the University of Freiburg, Germany and a M.S. in hydrology from the University of Stuttgart, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in hydrology (with emphasis on subsurface hydrology) at the University of Arizona. In 1995, he joined the faculty at the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California, Davis. His research focuses on nonpoint-source pollution of groundwater, groundwater modeling, groundwater resources evaluation under uncertainty, groundwater-surface water interaction, and on contaminant transport. Thomas's research group has done extensive modeling, laboratory, and field work to evaluate the impacts of agriculture and human activity on groundwater flow and contaminant transport in complex aquifer and soil systems. In 2007, Thomas was appointed Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy. Also in 2008, Thomas's research and extension program received the Kevin J. Neese Award in recognition of its efforts to engage scientists, regulators, farm advisors, dairy industry representatives, and dairy farmers to better understand the effects of dairy operations on water quality.


Carly Jerla

Carly is an Operations Research Analyst for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region in the Boulder Canyon Operations Office. She is currently stationed at the University of Colorado Boulder Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES). Carly obtained B.S. degrees in civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002. She also earned her M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Colorado in 2005. Carly leads the Region’s research and development of modeling applications and decision support for water operations and planning. She was Reclamation’s Study Manager for the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.


Kurt Johnson

Kurt A. Johnson, Ph.D., is the National Climate Change Scientist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), based in Falls Church, Virginia. Kurt provides expertise and consultation services to the Service’s regions and programs on issues related to climate change science, climate vulnerability assessment, and adaptation planning. Kurt is actively involved in the Service’s biological carbon sequestration efforts, including coastal blue carbon. Kurt chaired the Service’s National Climate Team for two years, and prior to that led the team that developed the Service’s Climate Change Strategic Plan. Kurt formerly worked as a listing biologist in the Service’s Endangered Species Program, where, among other issues, he worked on the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. He obtained his B.S. in Wildlife Science from Utah State University in 1976, his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980, and his Ph.D. in Animal Ecology from Utah State University in 1987. 



Sharon Megdal

Sharon Megdal is Director of The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) and C.W. and Modene Neely Endowed Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her work focuses on water resources management and policy, on which she writes and frequently speaks. She also holds the titles Professor, Department Soil, Water, and Environmental Science, and Distinguished Outreach Professor. She serves as Director of the Water Sustainability Program and Co-Director of The University of Arizona Water, Environmental and Energy Solutions Program, both of which are funded by the Technology Research Initiative Fund (TRIF). 

Sharon places particular emphasis on how to achieve desired policy objectives in terms of institutional structures and possible changes to them. Current projects include: comparative evaluation of water management, policy, and governance in growing, water-scarce regions; meeting the water needs of the environment; groundwater management and governance; groundwater recharge; and transboundary aquifer assessment. She is the lead editor of the book, Shared Borders, Shared Waters: Israeli-Palestinian and Colorado River Basin Water Challenges. Sharon teaches the multi-disciplinary graduate course Arizona Water Policy. She serves as President of the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) and is a member of the board of the Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) and the Western Rural Development Center. As an elected member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors, Sharon is responsible for the policies, rates and taxes associated with delivering Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project. Sharon has served on numerous Arizona boards and commissions, including the Arizona Corporation Commission, the State Transportation Board and the Arizona Medical Board.  She holds a Ph.D. degree in economics from Princeton University.



Doug Parker

Doug Parker is the Director of the California Institute for Water Resources, part of a nationwide network of 54 universities funded by the US Geological Survey under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964. Doug is also the Strategic Initiative Leader for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Water Quality, Quantity, and Security Strategic Initiative. He coordinates water-related research, extension, and education efforts across the 10 UC campuses, the UC ANR system, and other academic institutions within California.

Doug works with federal, state, and local agencies to guide academic expertise toward finding solutions to California’s water challenges. He brings together local, state, and federal stakeholders to identify issues and sources of political and financial support for water-related research. To improve the understanding of water issues, he serves as a key spokesperson on California water issues, working with federal, state, regional, nonprofit, and campus stakeholders on advocacy and outreach programs.

Prior to joining the University of California, Doug worked on water quality issues related to the Chesapeake Bay as an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Maryland. He has also worked on issues related to California water as an Extension Economist at UC Berkeley. Doug obtained his Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley and bachelor’s degrees in economics and environmental studies at UC Santa Barbara.



Adam Schempp

Adam Schempp joined the Environmental Law Institute as a Staff Attorney in 2007. He leads the Institute’s work on water allocation and use in the United States. Much of Adam's research focuses on water resource management, specifically identifying opportunities to meet conservation and sustainability objectives through existing laws and potential legal developments. Adam also has worked extensively on other topics, including TMDLs and CWA 303(d) listing under the Clean Water Act, marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management of marine resources, and routine program changes under the Coastal Zone Management Act. Prior to joining ELI, Adam clerked in the legal department of the Denver Water Board and for the Native American Rights Fund. He holds a B.A. in ethics, politics and economics with a concentration in environmental policy from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.



Barton H. "Buzz" Thompson, Jr.

A leading expert in environmental and natural resources law and policy, Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, Jr. has contributed a large body of scholarship on environmental issues ranging from the future of endangered species and fisheries to the use of economic techniques for regulating the environment. He is the founding director of the Stanford University Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Program, Perry L. McCarty Director and senior fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment, and a senior fellow (by courtesy) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. In 2008, the Supreme Court appointed Professor Thompson to serve as the special master in Montana v. Wyoming (137 Original). Professor Thompson is chairman of the board of the Resources Legacy Fund and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, a California trustee for The Nature Conservancy, and a board member of both the American Farmland Trust and the Sonoran Institute. He previously served as a member of the Science Advisory Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1986, he was a partner at O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles and a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. He was a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist ’52 (BA ’48, MA ’48) of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Joseph T. Sneed of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

Buzz holds a B.A. in economics and political science from Stanford University, an M.B.A. from Stanford Business School, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.


Reagan Waskom

Reagan Waskom currently serves as the Director of the Colorado Water Institute and the Chair of the Colorado State University Water Center. Reagan is a member of the Department of Soil & Crop Sciences at CSU, where he has worked on various water related research and outreach programs for the past 27 years, conducting statewide educational and applied research programs on water quality, water quantity, water policy and natural resource issues related to water use. His current teaching responsibility at CSU is for GRAD592 the Graduate Water Resources Seminar. In addition, he oversees the CSU Extension Water Outreach program and personnel. Reagan's current research emphasis is on the integrated use of surface and groundwater in the S. Platte Basin, the impacts of shale gas development on water resources, and agricultural water conservation in the Colorado River basin. He received his BS and MS degrees from Texas A&M University and his PhD from Colorado State University.