First Advisor

Heejun Chang

Date of Publication

Summer 8-8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources


Environmental Sciences and Resources


Dam retirement, Stream restoration, Social history, Restoration ecology



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 224 pages)


Ecological conservation and restoration in the anthropocene must struggle with overlapping drivers of biodiversity and cultural loss; ruptures of the ecological environment mirror ruptures of human relationships with nature. And yet technology cannot remove humans from nature; technological and infrastructural reconfigurations of nature create new vulnerabilities and risks for humans and ecosystems alike. How can conservation and restoration science productively grapple with complex infrastructure systems and decision-making processes as biophysical and social drivers of ecosystem change?

Using dam removals in the USA and in the Mid Columbia River region of the Pacific Northwest, this dissertation develops a conceptual framework for Social, Environmental, and Technological Systems (SETS), and applies it at three spatial and temporal scales to the practice of dam removal as a river restoration strategy. Drawing upon existing data sets, as well as biophysical, document, survey, and interview data this dissertation addresses how dam removals have functioned in the context of the social histories of river restoration programs, examines how these restoration programs must continue to renegotiate the human relationships with nature through the infrastructure systems that enable certain forms of existence while precluding others.

Of particular interest is how restoration programs have increasingly functioned to deliver novel infrastructure solutions, while ignoring longer-term changes in ecological structure and function due to infrastructure development; in other words, the infrastructural work of restored ecosystems, and the infrastructural blind spots of restoration programs.

How restoration planning considers, or does not consider, infrastructural blind spots, is indicative of not only the biophysical drivers of threatened and endangered species loss, but also the political dynamics of decision making at large, and the power-knowledge relationships constituting legitimate and relevant knowledge in the decision making space.

In the Pacific Northwest, there appears to be a tipping point of social convention in centering treaty rights and obligations vis-a-vis ongoing processes of colonization and institutionalized scientific expertise. Ecological restoration will only be successful if it addresses both engineered infrastructures and social justice.

Persistent Identifier