Christopher Fullerton

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Christopher Fullerton is a first-year Ph.D. student in the School of Geography and Development.  He is also completing the Graduate Certificate in Water Policy and is working as a graduate research assistant as part of the WRRC’s WaterRAPIDS program.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale University, Christopher continued his education at the University of Georgia. He earned a J.D. from the School of Law and a Master’s in Historic Preservation from the College of Environment and Design. He structured his plan of study around land use and environmental classwork. One especially influential course involved a multi-disciplinary practicum engaging stakeholders from a variety of local jurisdictions and interest groups to collaborate on an integrated regional riparian corridor and greenspace plan in response to development pressures from the rapidly expanding metro Atlanta region. Christopher wrote his master’s thesis on conservation easements and other private land-use tools for protecting valued cultural and environmental resources.

In pursuit of exciting opportunities for training and work, Christopher and his wife Josephine have lived in five states in the past ten years. For Christopher, the relocations proved especially instructive in observing the increasingly important implications of broad-based water resource management, as well as the particularized challenges facing local communities. These experiences informed his decision to return to graduate school to gain a better understanding of how legal, social, and ecological geographies shape and in turn are shaped by water resource management over time.

At the WRRC, Christopher has worked on the Participatory Watershed Assessment for the Upper Gila River, the Environmental Water Needs Assessment Planning program (EnWaP), and the Sustainable Clarkdale project. He has especially enjoyed opportunities to assist with stakeholder engagement and public outreach efforts. Studying the remarkable history and varied landscape of the state has helped him develop a deep appreciation for the breadth of human experiences in Arizona over time, as well as the critical importance of access to reliable water resources in adapting to life in an arid climate.

Regular relocations have allowed for engaging learning opportunities, and Christopher has tried to maintain an appreciation for the lessons he has learned from the different locales where he has lived.  One such avenue has been through growing food.  Christopher’s grandparents in Georgia taught him to grow tomatoes, peppers, and okra, and he has learned to adapt his vegetable gardens over the course of his moves to local conditions and crop varieties.  As a volunteer with Native Seeds/SEARCH, he is enthusiastically adapting his plant choices to drought-tolerant Southwestern crops like chiltepin peppers, Magdalena cheese squash, and O’odham tepary beans.

Working and studying at the University of Arizona, a land grant institution with a long-standing commitment to applied research, have been immensely educational for understanding the vital role of a boundary organization like the WRRC in facilitating communication between university-based scientists and public constituencies across Arizona in support of water resources decision-making. He is interested in applying these lessons in his studies of the fluctuating historical boundaries of state and private legal actions in regard to the stewardship of water resources, with a particular interest in how these decision-making processes influence rural livelihoods.