LEAH BREMERAssociate Specialist of Environmental Management, WRRC; Associate Specialist of Environmental Management, The Economics Research Organization of the University of Hawaiʻi

Office: Saunders Hall 504
Phone: (808) 956-7938

LEAH BREMERAssociate Specialist of Environmental Management, WRRC; Associate Specialist of Environmental Management, The Economics Research Organization of the University of Hawaiʻi


PHONE: (808) 956-7938


  • PhD, Geography, 2012 University of California at Santa Barbara – San Diego State University
  • MS, Conservation Biology, 2004 Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand-Macquarie University, Australia
  • BA, Psychology (Spanish minor), 2001 Northwestern University


  • Ecosystem services
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Watershed management and conservation
  • Joint social and ecological outcomes of land-use and climate change
  • Water resources

Dr. Leah Bremer’s work focuses on interdisciplinary, applied, and problem-driven research related to water and watershed policy and management. As a geographer and conservation scientist by training, she views social and environmental challenges and solutions as intricately inter-connected. She collaborates with teams of researchers, community groups, agencies, non-profits, and others to co-produce knowledge with the goal of informing effective and equitable decision making. Her research focuses on three inter-related themes: (1) illuminating the links between people and the environment (including watersheds) through various lenses, including ecosystem services, biocultural restoration, and inclusive valuation; (2) improving land and water management decisions to account for the multiple ways people use and value land and water, including links to groundwater dependent ecosystems; and (3) critical evaluation of the social and ecological outcomes of ecosystem services policies and programs (e.g., payments for watershed services) with the goal of improving program effectiveness and equity.

Dr. Bremer holds joint appointments with the Water Resources Research Center and the UH Economic Research Organization (Environmental Policy and Planning Group). She is a collaborating faculty with the Department of Geography and Environment, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, and the Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific. Dr. Bremer is also a research fellow with Fundación Cordillera Tropical, an NGO in Ecuador.

Dr. Bremer currently works on a variety of projects in Hawaiʻi (primarily) and Latin America:
ʻIke Wai—Securing Hawaiʻi’s Water Future
Co-lead of the social science team, a large interdisciplinary project on groundwater management for two aquifers in Hawaiʻi—Pearl Harbor aquifer on Oʻahu and Hualālai aquifer on Hawaiʻi Island. The team focuses on understanding the ways people use and value groundwater and dependent ecosystems and incorporating this information into future water and watershed management in a context of climate, land use, and water use change.

Restoration of Multi-Functional Agroforests (He‘eia, O‘ahu)
Collaborative research with the community-based non-profit Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi, using a biocultural approach. This includes monitoring of plant richness and cover, soil carbon, soil health, and cultural and economic outcomes.

Quantifying the Groundwater Recharge Benefits of Watershed Conservation
Collaborative research with The Nature Conservancy, Hawaiʻi County Department of Water Supply, and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation freshwater council to quantify the benefits of watershed protection spatially.

Rangeland Ecosystem Services
Collaborative work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and ranchers across Hawaiʻi to understand and express the range of ecosystem services provided by rangelands (which cover 20% of Hawaiʻi’s terrestrial area).

Payments for Ecosystem Services and Water Funds in Latin America
Dr. Bremer spent nearly ten years working with services in the Andes and Brazil during her dissertation and post-doctoral research (with the Natural Capital Project), which focused on understanding the combined social, biodiversity, and ecosystem service (water and carbon) outcomes of Payments for Ecosystem Services programs. She continues this work through an interdisciplinary, international research project funded by the Belmont Forum focused on understanding the social and hydrological outcome of water funds now and under a changing climate.

Dr. Bremer earned her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California at Santa Barbara—San Diego State University. She was awarded a Fullbright grant for her dissertation research. She earned an M.S. in Conservation Biology from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

Click here for Leah Bremer Faculty Spotlight

Leah Bremer 2021–2022 Publications





Groundwater Sustainability: A Review of the Interactions Between Science and Policy

Multi-process modeling, uncertainty analysis, and participation are the main components of an effective scientific evaluation of groundwater sustainability policy with the sphere number reflecting the increasing degree of integration (from Elshall et al. 2020).
This study provides a systematic review of the concept of groundwater sustainability, and situates this concept within the calls from the hydrologic literature for more participatory and integrated approaches to water security

Incorporating Historical Spring Discharge Protection Into Sustainable Groundwater Management: A Case Study From Pearl Harbor Aquifer, Hawai‘i

Groundwater simulation optimization results with spring discharge constrained at (a) 80%, (b) 60%, (c) 40% of pre-industrial discharge, and (d) estimated spring discharge-sustainable yield tradeoff curve.
This research provides decision-makers in Hawai‘i with information regarding the trade-off between groundwater pumping and spring discharge, which is connected to multiple benefits, including historical and cultural values in line with codified state beneficial use protections.

Linking Watershed and Groundwater Management to Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems and Their Linked Ecological, Cultural, and Socio-Economic Values

Veronica Gibson (Botany PhD student) is studying the linked social and ecological values of GDEs through multiple methods, including interviews with resource managers.
We develop future scenarios of cesspool (wastewater) management, forest conservation, groundwater pumping, and climate change to assess how coastal groundwater quality and quantity may change and how this may affect culturally and ecologically valuable groundwater dependent ecosystems along the coast of the Keauhou aquifer.

Enhancing Social-Ecological Resilience and Ecosystem Services Through Restoration of Coastal Agroforestry Systems

Agroforestry systems have the capacity to support resilient coastal communities through providing food, conserving native biodiversity, and supporting multiple ecosystem services, and represent growing priorities for conservation initiatives worldwide
Agroforestry systems have the capacity to support resilient coastal communities through providing food, conserving native biodiversity, and supporting multiple ecosystem services, and represent growing priorities for conservation initiatives worldwide

Synthesis of the Physical and Socio-Political Aspects of Hydrological Research in the Páramo

The objective of this project is to synthesize the current status of knowledge regarding the effects of land cover and climate change on the hydrological functioning and linked social and economic outcomes in high elevation Andean páramo grasslands from Perú to Venezuela.

Land-Based Solutions: Activating Landscapes for Climate Change Mitigation and Soil Health

How do we activate a soil research agenda that illuminates the linkages among soils, landscapes, and societal health and motivates protection and restoration of these diverse, productive systems?

On the Path to Carbon Neutrality: A Hawaiʻi Carbon Land Use Opportunity Assessment

To maximize landscape-scale sequestration rates, we will work with stakeholders and resource managers to develop a land-use classification map optimized for climate mitigation at the State of Hawai´i scale.

Collaborative Research With Kākoʻo Ōiwi, Heʻeia, Oʻahu: Restoring a Multi-Functional Agroforestry System

We are collaborating with a community-based organization, Kakoʻo ʻŌiwi, to restore and monitor a multi-functional agroforest using a participatory functional trait and biocultural approach.

Collaborative Research to Support Urban Agriculture in the Face of Change: The Case of Sumida Watercress Farm

This study focuses on a researcher-farmer collaboration in the highly urbanized Pearl Harbor area of Oʻahu aimed at understanding the historical and current challenges and opportunities facing a culturally and economically spring-dependent watercress farm.

Effects of Land Cover Futures and Watershed Protection on Sustainable Groundwater Management in Hawaiʻi

Stakeholder-defined future land cover scenarios based on a combination of varying degrees of forest protection and two urban development trajectories: a) Corridor development + high forest protection, b) Corridor development + targeted forest protection, c) Corridor development + no forest protection, d) sprawl development + high forest protection, e) sprawl development + targeted forest protection, f) sprawl development + no forest protection.
This research examines the effects of stakeholder-defined future watershed management and urban development land cover scenarios on groundwater recharge, sustainable yield, and groundwater replacement costs in the Pearl Harbor aquifer.