🔗NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: Ripple Effect: The American River Experience
American Conservation Experience
America’s riverways play a vital role in the nation’s economy and biological integrity. They are also foundational to many key events in our nation’s history with bold stories to be told. It is important to understand the diverse significance of rivers to all people and their values and experiences. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) was passed in 1968, reflecting America’s deep connection with rivers and streams, and a national desire to preserve some rivers in their more natural state to protect and enhance scenic, recreational, historic, and cultural values. In making regulatory decisions under the WSRA, a lot of attention has been paid to the recreational value of rivers. The cultural and historic values have often been overlooked.
The Fellow’s work will seek to address these, by exploring the way that communities form their civic or cultural identities around rivers. This is a relatively new and exciting area of research with academic and policy implications. To understand the dynamic and wide-encompassing aspect of American history and to explore the greater cultural and emotional river themes, a humanities scholar with a Ph.D. is needed to expand the knowledge of river-applied anthropology beyond human utility of rivers for westward expansion or industrial growth and generate a more inclusive account of the American river experience by exploring multiple perspectives of river-related history.
Fellow will (1) perform project-based research; (2) share research results; (3) produce and substantially contribute to interpretive and educational products; and (4) pursue career-focused work.
Project-Based Research: America’s riverways have had a deep and profound impact on the nation’s history and people in ways that encompass a diverse array of experiences, many of which have yet to be commonly shared. These connections remain today, though they often go unnoticed, are misunderstood, or lost in day to day living. Throughout American history, people have relied on and interacted with rivers every day, beyond the typical narrative of exploration and Eurocentric western expansion. The Fellow will have the flexibility to develop and implement a research strategy that further elucidates the varied significance of rivers to people and the meaning of rivers in a multicultural America. Examples of the types of research that may be employed include oral histories, interviews, archaeological/archival inventories, and literature reviews.
While the core of the project will be based in the Midwest/Central region of the United States, the potential for scalability and a national scope is high, as the Fellow would have regular access to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program and National Steering Committee, a cadre of river managers from all parts of the country.
Sharing Research Results: The Fellow will be expected to develop and sustain connections with program-provided mentors and host staff, associated NPS staff, members of their Fellowship cohort, and other Fellows across the tenure of the program. In addition to being provided mentorship and support themselves, the Fellow will have the opportunity to mentor others and to enrich staff knowledge by organizing events such as virtual speaker series and presentations. Twice a year, the Fellow will participate with their cohort and other Fellows in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. The Fellow will be responsible for tracking and reporting accomplishments and for supplying copies of interpretive, educational, and research products to their host and to the National Coordinator. The Fellow will be expected to pursue opportunities to share their research results to a broader audiences and academic venues including the 2025 River Management Society Symposium, and other agency conferences in the fields of river and cultural resources management as well as Association of American Geographers Conferences or similar Anthropology Conferences. In addition to presentations to the wider WSR community and conferences, more formal published journal articles, and GIS products including StoryMaps would also be produced.
Interpretive and Educational Products: The Fellow will develop programmatic or interpretive products. These can take many forms, however virtual products or in-person products that river parks could easily and efficiently maintain, update, or recreate to focus on their park should be a key consideration. Potential examples include but are not limited to immersive guided tours with platforms such as StoryMaps, virtual reality tours, webinars, podcasts, wayside signs, brochures, activities, or artwork. This criterion is important because the consortia of river parks sponsoring this project span a wide geography, and many of these park units are smaller with limited resources. Content will also be created and adapted for NPS.gov.
The Fellow will have freedom to exercise their creativity in developing the interpretive products based on what they learn from their research. The Support Team will work with them to ensure that the final products are appropriate for the specific audiences and meet the branding and technical requirements of the NPS.
Career-focused Research and Products: In consultation with their mentors, the Fellow will carry out a career-centered project. About 20 percent of the Fellowship will be dedicated to this scholarly work that advances the Fellow’s career path. The fellow will be integrated into a network of National Park Service professionals and collaborators to take part in the intricate relationships and working dynamics of water and land management. Mentors both in and outside of the NPS will be able to support the fellow in expanding their professional network and offering guidance in their research and product-development. This project is an opportunity for a post-doctoral candidate to develop or expand on work in a developing area of research while expanding their professional networks.
Essential Responsibilities and Tasks:
- Research, document, and synthesize the demographic and multi-cultural values relevant to rivers within the Midwest Region, with a focus on WSRs and an emphasis on the experiences of underrepresented communities and the significance of rivers to them in the past, present, and future.
- In collaboration with the Midwest Rivers Regional team, work with interested Native American community members to understand the meanings and uses of area rivers and identify areas of commonality with the Midwest Regional River Program, for example, regarding stewardship.
- Identify specific tools and research strategies to explore how rivers have been frequented, engaged, or valued by diverse communities since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and before.
- Participate fully as a member of the Midwest Region Planning and Compliance Team and Rivers Program to understand the mission of the NPS and contribute new perspectives on cultural engagement with respect to rivers and to better inform the Cultural Outstandingly Remarkable Values.
- Attend NPS trainings and workshops to develop a deep understanding of how co-stewardship policies may be implemented between federal agencies and diverse communities.
- Work with Rivers Coordinator to develop a consistent communications strategy to reach out to diverse communities and newer audiences with inclusive river stewardship in mind.
- Work closely with the mentorship team to effect personal growth, career development and viability of project outcomes and products.
- Develop and annotate a list of key contacts to support continuity of communications and relationships with diverse communities.