Bill Smith’s academic career has been built on the integration of environmental science, conservation, development studies, appropriate technology, political ecology, environmental sociology, hazards, geographic, and cross-cultural research. His work has made an impact at the nature-society-sustainability nexus. Recently he has been funded and published in the subareas of climate change, tribal and NGO capacity building, small-island biodiversity, and water. Smith’s students and postdocs have gone on to three faculty positions and the pursuit of a doctoral degree through NSF IGERT funding. He has published with his students in prestigious outlets such as Climatic Change, Risk Analysis, and The Professional Geographer and has supported their professional presentations at tribal meetings and academic conferences, where they have won numerous awards.
He has acquired funding and resources from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Society of Pohnpei (UNDP Equator Prize winner), and European Union/Micronesian Conservation Trust to study sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in the Federated States of Micronesia (east of the Philippines). One output of his community-based participatory research has been to work with local partners and those at The University of Iowa to build the first Internet-based national GIS for the FSM to support marine and terrestrial conservation (GeoMicronesia). He also established a spatial analysis lab to enhance environmental conservation capacity. Such experiences have allowed him to study the ways that NGOs are filling aid and environmental management spaces left unsupported by governments.
Another highlight is that he recently led research on “Policy, Decision Making, and Outreach” for a large National Science Foundation climate change grant. The team he built used mixed methods to study climate-change perception, impacts, timing, policy preferences, and “local knowledge” across Nevada. He had a special focus on vulnerable populations and minorities, including Native American tribes along the California-Nevada border. His video of tribal scenarios regarding endangered fish and climate change was awarded an NSF Highlight, was replayed by TV and Internet media outlets in Europe, and was shown for a month at the desert sustainability museum named Springs Preserve.