STEM Shoutout: Dr. Maria Lane

UNM historical geographer set to publish book on water management 

Associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies Dr. Maria Lane is set to publish a new book on New Mexico water management. 


“I’m interested in how people, communities, governments have produced environmental knowledge and made decisions about environmental management at different times and places,” Lane said. 


Her forthcoming book, Fluid Geographies, examines how science and politics were intertwined in the creation of New Mexico’s first comprehensive water management laws.


“Historical geography has given me an opportunity to get to know places and think about my own connections to place. My book on New Mexico’s water management was really a way of getting to know New Mexico after I moved to Albuquerque and started working at UNM. By researching the histories and geographies of past New Mexico communities’ relation to water and arid lands management, I was able to think about my own role as an Anglo settler participating in a process of changing the state’s demographic balance,” Lane said. 


As she takes sabbatical this year, she’s also continuing her research on several projects in the Caribbean and Ecuador. 


Lane’s projects in the Caribbean focus on the historical geographies of coastal management including fisheries, infrastructure, and agriculture and how knowledge was exchanged between different islands and political entities.


“I’m focused on understanding historical cases of how we’ve produced environmental knowledge, environmental science, and environmental management ideals – which requires understanding the political context in which the science/management takes place – so that we can take responsibility for our own role in scientific debates and in the use of scientific knowledge,” Lane said.


Lane is also taking her sabbatical to focus on a project on irrigation and landscape histories in Ecuador, which she was introduced to by several doctoral students in UNM’s Latin American Studies program who she works with closely. In addition, she is working on a research and outreach center that focuses on linking community research interests with academic geographers at UNM.


“I love historical geography because it’s a perfect combination of science and the humanities – by exploring place, science, and the environment, we’re really just exploring our own selves,” Lane said. 


To learn more and keep up to date on Lane’s research, visit her website and Twitter