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America Lutz's Final Oral Defense

America Nallely Lutz Ley successfully defended her dissertation research, November 21st, 2016 to a pack audience of ALRS and UA students, ALRS faculty, her dissertation committee and her immediate family members.

America entered the Arid Lands Resource Sciences, Ph. D. program in the Fall 2012 semester. All through her 4.5 years in the program she has continuously performed well and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. 

Her many accomplishments include:

  • 2012-2015- Entered the program with a LASPAU-COMEXUS Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship award  (Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities)
  • 2012-2016 - Scholarship for Doctoral Studies in High-Quality Programs Abroad, National Council of Science and Technology in Mexico (CONACyT)
  • 2012-2016- Has been a research associate with the UA Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy working in research projects funded by the National Sciences Foundation and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.
  • 2014 - Awarded a Carson-Haury Scholarship Carson Scholarships are designed to support outstanding University of Arizona (UA) graduate students and their environmental research.  Scholarships of $5,000 per year are awarded by the UA Institute of the Environment through a competitive process to current UA students who are committed to interdisciplinary research and communication. 
  • 2015
    • Recipient of one of the Spring Carter Travel Awardees for attending the 2015 Conference of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Chicago, Illinois, April 21st-25th, 2016. ($600)
    • Travel Award, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona ($500)
    • Dissertation Improvement Award. Global Change Minor - Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs of the University of Arizona. ($1,000).
    • November 30-December 11, 2015: She was part of the delegation from the University of Arizona attending the 21st Conference of Parties (COP in Paris, France). This is an annual event under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCC) since 1995. 

Indeed, America’s final oral defense of her dissertation research is the culmination of her academic aspirations delivered in one of the most polished and professional presentation we have ever observed.

Dissertation Title:          



Climate change has varying effects across the world. In North America, arid and semi-arid regions are subject to creeping warming together with more extreme climate variations, decreasing precipitation, and decreasing river flows that risk livelihoods of human populations living in these areas, and push their capacity to adapt beyond known boundaries. However, environmental impacts do not act alone. They combine with socio-economic globalization and policy changes fostered by those socio-economic dynamics. The exposure to socio-economic, environmental, and institutional change produce winners and losers depending on their levels of vulnerability and adaptive capacity, as well as the specific stressors and shocks affecting the livelihood resources on which they depend.

Rural communities are hot spots of global change impacts because many rural livelihoods are dependent on the community’s natural resource base, and in many cases, they are also subject to market fluctuations and crashes due to their participation in international chains of food and producer goods. They will face a larger burden of the global change impacts due to this multi-tiered exposure. The socio-economic and institutional dynamics affecting rural communities have also produced a movement towards de-agrarianization of livelihoods. Diversified livelihoods based on extractive industries and manufacturing or urban-based jobs coexist with the traditional small-scale ranching and farming. In terms of water and land access and use, the dynamism in user sectors and necessities, combined with increased demand by social and ecological components of the watershed systems, creates more complexity for environmental governance regimes and institutions. 

The general purpose of this research is to identify and understand how rural communities of the Northwest Mexico- Southwest United States region with reference to the San Miguel Watershed, experience globally driven environmental, socio-economic, and institutional changes, and respond to them. This project employs a combination of documentary, quantitative and qualitative methodologies in three municipalities representing the upper, middle, and lower SWM. Rural households and rural producers, governmental agents, and local leaders were the participants of direct data collection, while documentary analysis and a broader literature review on rural adaptation in Mexico and the arid Southwest United States complemented these primary data.

The main contributions of the research project focus on 1) identifying multiple types of rural livelihoods and their importance in understanding local adaptation to global change; 2) emphasizing institutional dynamics acting as both stressors and mediators in these local adaptation processes, and as important factors whose interactions can produce adaptive and maladaptive governance of livelihoods’ resources; and 3) providing fist hand, empirical evidences for improving adaptation policies in rural arid Northwest Mexico, and other rural arid communities of the world. The document also includes a series of findings and lessons regarding the advances in understanding human adaptation in rural communities, the contributions to the theory and methods of adaptation science, and policy design guidelines based on the research findings.


Key words:

1.            Rural livelihoods

2.            Arid Mexico

3.            Southwest-United States

4.            Water resources

5.            Adaptation

6.            Multiple Exposures

7.            Global Change

8.            Environmental governance

9.            Institutional mismatches

10.          Adaptive governance



Last updated 30 Nov 2016