Northwestern Events Calendar


EES Seminar Series: Jonathan Higgins

When: Monday, February 5, 2018
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM  

Where: Technological Institute, A230, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Tierney Acott   847.491.3257

Group: McCormick - Civil and Environmental Engineering

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Hydropower by Design: a system-scale analytical approach to assess social, environmental, and economic consequences of alternatives for multiple dam siting and management

Countries are turning more and more to hydropower as a low-carbon source to fulfil their growing energy demands while trying to limit global temperature rise. As a result, global hydropower expansion is expected to increase by as much as 50% by 2050. More than 300,000 km of river will likely be affected by large dams that are currently planned or under construction, with many more under consideration. A majority of those rivers contain the highest diversity of fish species on earth and are the primary source of food, livelihoods, and other water-resource derived benefits for hundreds of millions of people. Hydropower planning done in isolation – independent of other sources of energy and uses of water, at the individual project scale, or without considering multiple dependencies on river ecosystems and the potential multiple benefits of infrastructure - will generally fail to achieve their full potential for providing multiple benefits, and can result in significant negative consequences for social, environmental, and economic concerns. Hydropower by Design is a framework that can be applied to identify options that provide similar levels of generation as business-as-usual approaches, but do so with lower environmental and social impacts and can yield improvements for other water management values. This framework has also been applied to mitigation and restoration efforts in river basins to assess the potential benefits of scenarios of dam removals, fish passage, and energy capacity upgrades to improve environmental, social, and energy production in river basins. The Nature Conservancy has been developing and implementing a suite of approaches and analytical tools with partners that evaluate the values and concerns of decision makers and stakeholders, translate these values into quantitative metrics, analyze alternative outcomes for dam siting and management scenarios, and illustrate tradeoffs in metrics across scenarios. Applications of this framework in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and Asia will be used to illustrate several different approaches and their results.

Jonathan Higgins is a conservation biologist who has been involved in freshwater science and conservation for more than 30 years. He is a senior water analyst at The Nature Conservancy, where he supports the organization’s Saving Great Rivers and Water Funds global strategies, working with field programs and partners worldwide to develop and test new analytical approaches and methods; setting priorities for where and how to work; and monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of efforts at the project, basin, and global levels. A specific focus of his current work is developing and evaluating approaches to analyze the environmental and social impacts that result from different scenarios of dam development, management, and removal.

Jonathan has been engaged in conservation and water resource management assessments at the basin scale over the past two decades in the Laurentian Great Lakes, as well as several large river basin projects worldwide, including China’s Yangtze, Colombia’s Magdalena, South America’s Amazon, the United States’ Mississippi, Gabon’s Ogooué, and India’s Ganges rivers. He has supported numerous individual site-level projects in North, Central, and South America, Africa, and Asia.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy in 1995, he was a senior scientist and project manager for water quality and biological monitoring of the Laurentian Great Lakes as a contractor to the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. There, he led a team of contract staff biologists and chemists in methods development, lab analyses and reporting, and field surveys onboard The Lake Guardian research vessel.

Jonathan received his B.A. from Grinnell College, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Population and Evolutionary Ecology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. A life-long resident of Evanston, Jonathan is an avid fly fisherman and jazz musician.

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