Emma S. Norman

Emma S. Norman
"Be the change that you want to see in the world."
—Mahatma Ghandi


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Assistant Professor of Geography, Social Sciences

Environmental and Energy Policy Program

  • PhD, Geography, University of British Columbia
  • MSc, Geography, Western Washington University
  • BA, International Studies, Colby College


I am a political and environmental geographer interested in questions related to water governance, borders, and political and cultural ecology. My work investigates how flow resources, such as water, are governed across political jurisdictions and across multiple scales.  My work looks at the power dynamics associated with governing resources, with particular attention to Indigenous communities who span and predate modern borders. In my work, I also connect ecosystem health with human health through models of water security and adaptive management.

I have published in a wide range of journals including, the Annals of the Association of American Geography, Geoforum, Water Alternatives, Water Resources Management and Area. My book projects reflect my ongoing interests in water governance and environmental and spatial politics:  my co-edited volumes, Water without Borders: Canada, the U.S. and Shared Waters (University of Toronto Press, 2013), and Negotiating Water Governance: Why the Politics of Scale Matter (Ashgate 2014) and, my first sole-authored book, Governing Transboundary Waters: Canada, the United States and Indigenous Communities (Routledge 2014).   I also aim to translate my work to wider audience through community workshops, policy reports, and briefing papers.

Most recently, I have been named a research associate with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, where I am working with NMAI staff  to create a series of maps that show the changing settlement patterns of Indigenous peoples along the Canada-US border (pre- and post-contact) and how those patterns impact access to and governance of water. 

Areas of Expertise

  • Political and Cultural Geography
  • Environmental and Energy Policy
  • Transboundary Water Governance
  • Water Security
  • Environmental Governance
  • Nature-Society

Recent Publications

  • Norman, Emma S. 2014. Governing Transboundary Waters: Canada, the United States, and Indigenous Communities. Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management Series. London: Routledge. Forthcoming. Read More
  • Norman, Emma S., Cook, Christina, Cohen, Alice (eds). 2014. Negotiating Water Governance: Why the Politics of Scale Matter. London: Ashgate Press. Forthcoming. Read More
  • Khalyani, Azad Henareh, Mayer, Audrey and Norman, Emma S.. 2014. Water Flows Towards Power: Kurdish ecological disenfranchisement in Lake Urmia, Iran. Society and Natural Resources. Insights and Applications. Forthcoming.
  • Norman, E.S., Cohen, A. and Bakker, K. 2014. “The Water Convention from a North American Perspective” Water Cooperation in A. Tanzi, O. McIntyre, A. Kolliopoulos, and A. Rieu-Clarke (eds) edited volume, The UNECE Convention to the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes; Its Contribution to Internation. Boston: Brill Press. Forthcoming.
  • Norman, Emma S., Cohen, Alice, and Bakker, Karen (eds). 2013. Water without Borders: Canada, the United States and Shared Waters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Read More
  • Norman, Emma S. 2013. Water. Annotated Bibliography in Geography, Warf, Barney (ed), New York: Oxford University Press. Read More
  • Norman, Emma S. 2013. Taking the ‘Frogs Eye View’: How Place Based Learning and Talking Circles Foster Life-Long Learning. Mellon Tribal College Research Journal. 1(1) 162-190.
  • Norman, Emma S., Dunn, Gemma, Bakker, Karen, Allen, Diana, and Cavalcanti de Albuquerque, Rafael. 2013. “Water Security Assessment: Integrating Governance and Freshwater Indicators.” Water Resources Management. 27 (2): 535-551 DOI: 10.1007/s11269-012-0200-4 Read More
  • Norman, Emma. 2013. “Who’s counting? Spatial politics, ecocolonisation, and the politics of calculation in Boundary Bay.” Area (Royal Geographical Society) 45(2) 179-187. DOI: 10.1111/area.12000 Read More
  • Norman, Emma S. 2012. “Cultural Politics and Transboundary Resource Governance in the Salish Sea.” Water Alternatives 5(1): 138-160. Read More
  • Norman, Emma S. Bakker, Karen, and Cook, Christina. 2012. “Introduction to the Themed Section: Water Governance and the Politics of Scale.” Water Alternatives 5(1): 52-61. Read More
  • Norman, Emma S., Karen Bakker, and Gemma Dunn. 2011. Recent Development in Canadian Water Policy: An emerging water security paradigm, Canadian Water Resources Journal. 36(1): 53-66, DOI: 10.4296/cwrj3601053 Read More
  • Norman, Emma S. and Bakker, Karen. 2009. Transgressing Scales: Transboundary Water Governance across the Canada – U.S. Borders. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 99 (1): 99-117. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00045600802317218 Read More

Recent Funding

  • “Managing Impacts of Global Transport of Atmosphere-Surface Exchangeable Pollutants in the Context of Global Change.” National Science Foundation: Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program No. 10-612. Judith Perlinger (PI), Co-PIs' Emma Norman, Shiliang Wu, Noel Urban, and Hugh Gorman. Michigan Technological University. (1.45 million) 2013 - 2016
  • "Governing Transboundary Waters: Canada, the United States, and Indigenous Communities". Michigan Technological University Research Excellence Fund - Scholarship and Creativity. (6,000) 2013-2014
  • "Water without Borders: Canada, the U.S. and Shared Waters." Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. with Karen Bakker and Alice Cohen ($64,000) 2010-2013
  • Mellon Research Fellowship, American Indian College Fund, “Our Water, Our Future: Re-framing Transboundary Water Governance for, and by, Native Communities” ($40,000) 2011-2012
  • Consulate General, Seattle, Research Grant to support “A Shared Environment, A Shared History: (Trans)boundary Governance and the Salish Sea Council” ($10,000) 2008


Research Projects

  • Managing Impacts of Global Transport of Atmosphere-Surface Exchangeable Pollutants in the Context of Global Change (2013 - Current)
  • Transboundary Water Governance between Canada and the U.S.
  • Water Quality Issues and First Nations in British Columbia
  • Water Security and Adaptive Governance

Teaching Experience

  • SS 2400 Introduction to Human Geography
  • SS 3410 World Resources and Development
  • SS 4390 Topics in Sustainability: Political Ecology of the Water-Energy Nexus
  • SS 5302 Environmental Governance and Decision Making (Theme: Power, Politics, and Place)
  • GEOG 340 Political and Cultural Ecology
  • GEOG 410: Environment and Society
  • NES 360: Shared Governance