Monthly Archives: February 2016

Graduate and Undergraduate Research Opportunities

I have two undergraduate research opportunities and one graduate research opportunity for students.  Please contact me (wjepson [at] if you are interested.  Send your CV and a statement of interest along with an email that explains your qualifications.

Undergraduate Research

I am actively seeking undergraduate researchers for two projects on water security.

  • Computer Science Undergraduate (paid hourly position starting 6/2016) with skills in software applications and mobile application programming. The student will have the requisite programming skills to create a beta version (and revisions) of the a new household water security tool that I am developing.  The student will also manage a project website and portal to dissemination the household water security tool to the research community.
  • Undergraduate with GIS Skills (GEOG 481, Fall 2016) with opportunities to shift into hourly work after proof of skills. Students will work on developing a GIS database of small water systems in Texas.

Graduate Research

I am actively recruiting Graduate Assistant Researcher interested in pursuing a PhD degree in Geography on a topic related to water security in urban Brazil.   An ideal student will be conversant in Portuguese and have some international field experience in Brazil.  The student will assist in the transcription of the interviews, data management tasks, data processing, field logistics, and project communications. This student will work during the academic year and will be provided the opportunity to travel with me to Brazil on field visits to conduct project research and develop his or her related doctoral project.  The GAR position is a 9-month, two-year position that includes fringe, medical, and tuition.  Portuguese skills and field experience in Brazil are essential. 

Contact me if you are interested.  Send your CV and a statement of interest along with an email that explains your qualifications.  The graduate position will begin in September 2017.

Joining TAMU “Water Program” Faculty

Today I will be joining the Texas A&M University interdisciplinary faculty for the Water Management and Hydrological Science graduate program.  I look forward to offering seminars that would be of interest to the students, particularly in the area of water and society.  The formal recognition also allows me to serve on water program MS and PhD committees, as chair or member.

Going to Brazil as Fulbright Scholar

IMG_1724Yesterday, I learned that I will be a Fulbright Scholar to Brazil to teach at the Universidade Federal de Ceará – Fortaleza (UFC) and conduct a research project on urban water provisioning and household water security. I am thrilled to work with students and faculty on an exciting project and further deepen our existing institutional and research relations for years to come.

Ten years ago, I thought I had left Brazil for the last time. I remember sitting in the Porto Velho airport, waiting for the intense smoke of burning forest to clear so I could take off to Brasília for my connection to Guarulhos.  I just completed four weeks of field work, traipsing through the countryside with a backpack GPS outside of Vilhena, measuring land cover and talking with farmers about crop rotation, land contracts, land clearance practices, and soybean production expectations. Data from this trip would become material for one of my last articles on Brazilian agricultural development and the dynamic transformation of Central Brazil’s Cerrado, a topic I studied for over eight years as a graduate student and early career faculty. But I thought my research trip to Rondônia was my last to Brazil. Professional and personal demands precluded further research abroad, and my interests turned toward the pressing social and environmental inequities closer to home and in a community I had first worked with in the early 1990s. I wanted to understand why low-income Mexican-Americans living in peri-urban and rural subdivisions (colonias) in South Texas still struggled for adequate, affordable and reliable drinking water.

Today, I study environmental justice, water governance, and household water insecurity. My research, funded by NSF, examines ad-hoc water delivery and inadequate potable water supply for tens of thousands of Mexican-Americans living in colonias. My research addressed a central paradox: Why, despite $1.7 billion invested in water infrastructure, do tens of thousands of people still lack secure drinking water along the Texas-Mexico border? Is water insecurity produced and maintained through existing water governance regimes? If so, how? To answer these questions, I conducted qualitative study of water insecurity, then developed and implemented the first household-scale metric of water security. This research has yielded six publications and has been reported in regional media.

Recent institutional collaborations between the Texas A&M University Geography Department and geography faculty at the Universidade Federal de Ceará – Fortaleza (UFC) have opened new, exciting, and unexpected possibilities for me to return to Brazil.  The Fulbright program will allow me to build on these emerging connections by deepening the sustainability of our educational and research relationships. The proposed project will provide the necessary institutional and collaborative context to exchange methodologies and research approaches on water resource governance and water security with Brazilian geographers. I may need to brush off my well-worn, dusty copy of Aurelio’s Portuguese-English dictionary, reorient my mental map of Brazil, and set my compass to the Northeast. But as a Fulbright Scholar, I will bring to bear my work on water security to problems of water provision in urban Brazil.