LEAH BREMERAssociate Specialist of Environmental Management, WRRC; Associate Specialist of Environmental Management, The Economics Research Organization of the University of Hawaiʻi (page 2)


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





Who Are We Measuring and Modeling for? Supporting Multi-Level Decision Making in Real-World Watershed Management Programs

Roles of water producer project institutions and stakeholders and the most common levels at which they work.
We interviewed a wide range of participants in water management programs in Brazil and found five key areas where modeling and monitoring can support these programs: (1) inspire action and support, (2) inform investment decisions, (3) engage with potential participants, (4) prioritize location and types of activities at regional to national scales, and (5) evaluate program success.

Climate-Smart Watershed Investments in the Montane Tropics of South America

figure 2: Beach erosion at Sunset Beach.
ClimateWIse is using information and data from the Latin American Water Funds Partnership and the Brazilian Water Producer Program to measure and model impacts of land use and climate change on high-elevation páramo grasslands and the Andean and Atlantic forests of South America.

Nature-Based Solutions, Sustainable Development, and Equity

In this chapter, we discussed the importance of attention to distributional, procedural, and recognitional equity in NBS and review examples of real-world NBS programs and strategies to improve equity outcomes. Specifically, we discussed urban green infrastructure, payments for ecosystem services, and biocultural approaches to watershed management. We concluded with emerging best practices around equitable and just NBS for water.

Hawaiʻi Rangeland Ecosystem Services

Rangeland ecosystem services team meeting at Haleakala Ranch
The purpose of this work is to facilitate policies and practices that promote enhanced stewardship of rangelands across the state for the benefit of Hawaiʻi’s environment and people.

Incorporating Multiple Values Into Decision Making in Payments for Ecosystem Services and Protected Areas

This project is part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiveristy and Ecosystem Services and examines how diverse values of nature have (or have not) been considered in making informed decisions, within specific contexts, and how value articulation processes influence social and environmental outcomes in these contexts.

Identifying Multiple Values for Beaches and Coastlines Under Sea Level Rise

This study uses three sites on the island of Oʻahu to better understand how their multiple values change with expected sea level rise. The study will result in a framework to support local decision-making for proactive policy and planning for coastlines facing rapid change.