Alex Clapp


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  • Tel: 778-782-3635
  • Office: RCB 7139
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I was born in Boston in 1961, and received my B. A. (Linguistics, 1983) from Yale. After spending two years working in artificial intelligence and in the Central American solidarity movement, I began graduate training in Geography at the University of California at Berkeley (M. A., 1987; Ph. D., 1993). I taught at the University of Toronto for five years (1993-8) before coming to Simon Fraser University in 1998.

Research Interests

Open Data, Environmental Policy and Boundary Organizations.

Boundary organizations, institutions that answer to both political and scientific standards, are emerging as key actors in environmental politics. The data they collect and analyze have become public utilities because of their influence on political decisions, and open data approaches have become essential for transparency, credibility and legitimacy. Several case studies examine how boundary organizations and open data shape responses to environmental conflict and crisis, including BC’s Coast Information Team, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the global temperature record.

The Conservation Mosaic

Common property theory has important implications for protected area design and management. The national park and wilderness models work well for remote uninhabited spaces, but are a poor fit in productive lowlands with communities with customary rights to local resources. Spatial conservation strategies to promote ecosystem resilience and adaptation in a changing climate require additional models of protected areas that accept humans as a part of nature, not apart from it. Private and community protected areas are essential components of well-connected conservation networks. These projects evaluate whether landscapes under local control can extend and link protected areas across a mosaic of property types without sacrificing the wellbeing of local residents. Case studies include the temperate rainforests (BC, Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania), and research collaborations on Costa Rica and Ecuador.

Publications 2011

Affolderbach, J, RA Clapp, and R Hayter. (forthcoming) Environmental Bargaining and Boundary Organizations: Remapping British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Gold, CL, and RA Clapp. 2011. Negotiating Health and Identity: lay healing, medicinal plants, and indigenous healthscapes in highland Peru. Latin American Research Review 46 (3): 93-111. (PDF)

Clapp, RA, J Affolderbach, and R Hayter. 2011. Environmental Bargaining in Resource Peripheries: ENGOs and Boundary Organizations in Regional Development. Regions 282: 13-15.

Clapp, RA, and CM Mortenson. 2011. Adversarial Science: conflict resolution and scientific review in British Columbia’s central coast. Society & Natural Resources 24 (9): 902–916. (PDF)

Abstract: Science plays paradoxical roles in environmental planning. As a process for generating and adapting knowledge of the biophysical environment to human use, it is essential to achieving sustainability. As the socially contested evaluation of competing claims to truth, however, adversarial science often becomes the focus of conflict in the planning process. British Columbia’s Central Coast Land and Resource Management Plan (CCLRMP) planning process took place amid industrial restructuring, market campaigns, and scientific disputes over the conservation of the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. This article shows how adversarial science set the terms of the policy debate, as well as the means for compromise. A multi-sector interdisciplinary information team played a key role in arriving at consensus by establishing a boundary organization that enabled bargaining and separated land use negotiations from disputes over the content, meaning, and implications of science.



Graduate students working with me have conducted field research on forest planning in BC, common property protected areas in Costa Rica, indigenous medicinal knowledge in Peru, biodiversity prospecting in Costa Rica and Peru, and forest eco-certification in Mexico.

I teach undergraduate courses on World Resources, World Forests and Economic Geography. World Resources (GEOG 322) examines the development, extraction, depletion, and substitution of natural resources, focusing on the interaction of technology, markets and institutions with the biophysical environment. The course presents the fundamental debates over resource scarcity and substitution, and uses ecological economics as a framework for analyzing the political and economic processes and institutions that govern resource management. BC’s role in the global resource economy receives special attention.