Leah Bremer

Co-Director of the Environmental Policy and Planning Group, UHERO and Water Resources Research Center Assistant Specialist


PhD Geography, 2012 University of California at Santa Barbara – San Diego State University

M.S. Conservation Biology, 2004 Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand-Macquarie University, Australia

B.A. Psychology (Spanish minor), 2001 Northwestern University

Research Interests

Ecosystem services, social-ecological systems, watershed management and conservation, land-use change, water resources.

My 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, I view social and environmental challenges and solutions as intricately inter-connected and so work with collaborative teams of researchers, community groups, agencies, non-profits, and others to co-produce knowledge with the goal of informing effective and equitable decision making. My work broadly focuses on three inter-related themes: 1) illuminating the links between people and the environment through various lenses, including ecosystem services, biocultural restoration of agroecological systems, and inclusive valuation; 2) improving land and water management decisions to account for the multiple ways people use and value these resources, including through links to groundwater dependent ecosystems; and 3) critical evaluation of the social and ecological outcomes of ecosystem services policies and programs, including water funds in Latin America, with the goal of improving program effectiveness and equity. In addition to my split appointment with UH Economic Research Organization (Environmental Policy and Planning Group) and the Water Resources Research Center, I am also cooperating faculty with the Department of Geography and Environment, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, and the Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific. I am also a Gund Institute of the Environment affiliate and a research fellow with Fundación Cordillera Tropical, an NGO in Ecuador that I worked with for many years.

Selected Grants

2020-2021 U.S. Climate Alliance Grant Program. On the path to carbon neutrality: a Hawai’i carbon land use opportunity assessment. Co-Investigator.

2020-2021 Conéctate-A+ small grants program. Synthesis of the physical and socio-political aspects of hydrological research in Andean paramo grasslands, Co-Investigator.

2020-2021 National Institute of Food and Agriculture, capacity grants. Land-based solutions: activating landscapes for climate change mitigation and soil health. Co-Investigator. Co-Investigator.

2020-2022 University of Hawaiʻi Seagrant College Program. Enhancing social-ecological resilience and ecosystem services through restoration of coastal agroforestry systems. Principal Investigator.

2020-2022 United States Geological Survey Water Resources Research Institutes Program. Linking watershed and groundwater management to groundwater dependent ecosystems and their linked ecological, cultural, and socio-economic values. Principal Investigator.

2019-2021 National Science Foundation (Eager), Coastlines and People. Identifying multiple values for beaches and coastlines unders sea level rise. Co-Principal Investigator.

2018-2020 U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Conservation Innovation Grant: Restoring ecosystem services and biodiversity through cost-effective and resilient agroforestry systems. Principal Investigator.

2018-2019 College of Social Sciences Research Support Award: Restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services through cost-effective and resilient agroforestry systems. Principal Investigator.

2018 – 2019 Department of Water Supply, Hawaiʻi Island: Spatial prioritization of investments in watershed protection for cost-effective groundwater recharge benefits. Principal Investigator.

2016-2019 Belmont Forum Mountains as Sentinels of Change “ClimateWIse: Climate-Smart Watershed Investments in the Montane Tropics of South America.” Senior Personnel.

2009-2010 Fulbright Fellowship to Ecuador

2003-2004 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to New Zealand

Selected Publications

Winter, K.B., Rii, Y.M., Reppun, F., Hintzen, K.D., Alegado, R.A., Bowen, B.W., Bremer, L.L. et al. (In Press). Collaborative research to inform adaptive co-management: a framework for the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ecology and Society.

Gould, R., Bremer, L.L., Pascua, P., & Meza Prado, K. (In Press). Frontiers in cultural ecosystem services: Toward greater equity and justice in ecosystem services research and practice. Bioscience.

Elshall, A.S., Arik, A.D, El-Kadi, A.I., Pierce, S., Burnett, K.M, Wada, C.A., Bremer, L.L. & Chun, G. (In Press). Groundwater sustainability: a review of the interactions between science and policy. Environmental Research Letters. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab8e8c

Engels, J.L., Watson, S., Dulai, H., Burnett, K.M., Aga, A., DeMaagd, N., Wada, C.A., McHugh, Sumida, B., & Bremer, L.L. (2020). Collaborative research to support urban agriculture in the face of change: the case of Sumida watercress farm. Plos One. 15(7): e0235661. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235661

Hastings, Z., Ticktin, T., Botelho, M., Reppun, N., Kukea-Shultz, K., Wong, M., Melone, A., & Bremer, L.L. (2020). Integrating co-production and functional trait approaches for inclusive and scalable restoration solutions. Conservation Science and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.250

Winter, K.B., Lincoln, N.K., Berkes, F., Alegado, R.A., Kurashima, N., Frank, K.L., Pascua, P., Rii, Y.M., Reppun, F., Knapp, I.S.S., McClatchey, W.C., Ticktin, T., Smith, C., Franklin, E.C., Oleson, K., Price, M.R., McManus, M.A., Donahue, M.J., Rodgers, K.S., Bowen, B.W., Nelson, C.E., Thomas, B., Leong, J.-A., Madin, E.M.P., Rivera, M.A.J., Falinski, K.A., Bremer, L.L., Deenik, J.L., Gon III, S.M., Neilson, B., Okano, R., Olegario, A., Nyberg, B., Kawelo, A.H., Kotubetey, K., Kukea-Shultz, J.K. & Toonen, R.J. (2020). Ecomimicry in Indigenous resource management: optimizing ecosystem services to achieve resource abundance, with examples from Hawaiʻi. Ecology and Society, 25(2). https://doi.org/10.5751/es-11539-250226

Burnett, K.M, Elshall, A.S., Wada, C.A., Arik, A., El-Kadi, A.I., Delevaux, J.M.S, & Bremer, L.L. (2020). Incorporating spring discharge protection into sustainable groundwater management: A case study from Pearl Harbor Aquifer, Hawaiʻi. Frontiers Water, 2(14). https://doi.org/10.3389/frwa.2020.00014

Bremer L.L, Hamel P, Ponette-González A.G., Pompeu P.V., Saad S.I., & Brauman, K.A. (2020). Who Are we Measuring and Modeling for? Supporting Multilevel Decision-Making in Watershed Management. Water Resources Research, 56, e2019WR026011. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019WR026011  

Hamel P, Bremer L.L, Ponette-González A.G., Acosta E, Fisher J.R.B., Steele B, Cavassani A.T., Klemz C., Blainski E., & Brauman, K.A. (2020). The value of hydrologic information for watershed management programs: The case of Camboriú, Brazil. Science of the Total Environment, 705 (135871). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135871

Nelson S.H., Bremer L.L, Meza Prado, K. & Brauman, K.A. (2020). The Political Life of Natural Infrastructure: Water Funds and Alternative Histories of Payments for Ecosystem Services in Valle del Cauca, Colombia Development and Change, 51(1), 26–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12544

Bremer, L.L., Burnett, K.M, & Wada, C.A. (2020). Economic benefits of hydrologic services from watershed protection and restoration. UHERO brief.

Bremer, L.L. & Brauman K.A. (2020). Who are we measuring and modeling for? Supporting real-world watershed management. Global Water Forum, August 14, 2020.

Oleson, K.L.L., Ostergaard-Klem, R., Lynch, M.K., & Bremer, L.L. (2020). Transforming the Economy through Ocean, Ohia and Ohana: a holistic understanding of economic progress can help guide Hawaii past COVID-19. Civil Beat, Honolulu, HI, June 10, 2020.

Bremer, L.L., Wada, C.A., Medoff, S., Falinski, K., & Burnett, K.M. (2019). Contributions of native forest protection to water supplies in East Maui. Science of the Total Environment, 688, 1422-1432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.220

Delevaux, J.M.S., Stamoulis, K.A., Whittier, R., Jupiter, S.D., Bremer, L.L, Friedlander, A., Kurashima, N., Giddens, J., Winter, K., Blaich-Vaughan, M., Burnett, K., Geslani, C., & Ticktin T. (2019). Local place-based management can reduce human impacts on coral reefs. Ecological Applications, 29(4), e01891. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1891

Bremer, L.L., Farley, K.A., Demaagd, N., Suárez, E., Tandalla, D.C., Vasco, S., Patricio, T., & Vásconez, M. (2019). Biodiversity outcomes of payment for ecosystem services: lessons from páramo grasslands. Biodiversity and Conservation, 28, 885-898. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01700-3

Burnett, K., Ticktin, T., Bremer, L.L., Quazi, S.A., Geslani, C., Wada, C.A., Kurashima, N., Mandle, L., Pascua, P., Depraetere, T., Wolkis, D., Edmonds, M., Giambelluca, T.W., Falinski, K., & Winter, K.B. (2019). Restoring to the future: environmental, cultural, and management tradeoffs in historical versus hybrid restoration of a highly modified ecosystem. Conservation Letters, 12 (1), e12606. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12606

Hastings, Z., Botelho, M., & Bremer, L.L. (2019). Biocultural restoration workday draws community together to plant an agroforest. UHERO blog, 5 March, 2019.

Bremer, L.L., DeMaagd, N., Wada, C.A., & Burnett, K.M. (2019). Identifying priority watershed management areas for groundwater recharge protection on Hawai‘i Island. Prepared for the Hawaiʻi County Department of Water Supply. UHERO Report for the Hawaiʻi County Department of Water Supply.

Brauman, K, Benner, R., Benitez, S., Bremer, L.L. & Vigerstol, K. (2019). Water Funds. In: Mandle, L., Ouyang, Z., Salzman, J., Daily, G. (2019). Green Growth That Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance Mechanisms Around the World. Island Press.

Bremer, L.L., Falinski, K., Ching, C., Wada, C.A, Burnett, K.M, Kukea-Shultz, K., Reppun, N., Chun, G., Oleson, K., & Ticktin, T. (2018). Biocultural restoration of traditional agriculture: cultural, environmental, and economic outcomes of lo’i restoration in Heʻeia, Oʻahu. Sustainability, 10 (12), 4502. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124502 (Part of a special issue on biocultural restoration in Hawaiʻi).

Bremer, L.L., Brauman, K.A., Nelson, S., Meza Prado, K., Wilburn, E., & Fiorini, A.C. (2018). Relational values in evaluations of social outcomes of payment for watershed services: a review. Current Opinions in Environmental Sustainability, 35, 116-123.

Delevaux, J.M.S., Winter, K., Jupiter, S., Blaich-Vaughan, M., Stamoulis, K., Bremer, L.L, Burnett, K., Garrod, P., Troller, J. & Ticktin, T. (2018). Linking Land and Sea through Collaborative Research to Inform Contemporary applications of Traditional Resource Management in Hawai‘i. Sustainability, 10(9), 3147. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093147 (Part of a special issue on biocultural restoration in Hawaiʻi).

Delevaux, J.M.S., Jupiter, S.D., Stamoulis, K.A., Bremer, L.L., Wenger, A.S., Dacks, R., Garrod, P., Falinski, K.A., & Ticktin, T. (2018). Scenario planning with linked land-sea models inform where forest conservation actions will promote coral reef resilience. Scientific Reports, 8, 12465. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1891

Bremer, L. L., L. Mandle, C. Trauernicht, P. Pascua, H. L. McMillen, K. Burnett, C. A. Wada, N.    Kurashima, S. Quazi, T. Giambelluca, P. Chock, & Ticktin, T. (2018). Bringing multiple values to the table: assessing future land-use and climate change in North Kona, Hawaiʻi. Ecology and Society, 23(1), 33. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09936-230133

Delevaux, J.M.S., Whittier, R, Stamoulis, K.A., Bremer, L.L., Jupiter, S., Friedlander, A.M., et al. (2018). A linked land-sea modeling framework to inform ridge-to-reef management in high oceanic islands. PLoS ONE, 13(3). e0193230. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193230

Game, E. T., Bremer, L.L., Calvache, A., Moreno, P.H. Vargas, A., Rivera, B., & Rodriguez, L.M. (2018). Fuzzy models to inform social and environmental indicator selection for conservation impact monitoring. Conservation Letters, 11(1), e12338. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12338

Bremer, L.L. (2018). Water Funds Toolbox online training: Social Impact Assessment. The Nature Conservancy’s Water Fund Toolbox, 2018.

Zyla, C., Apse, C., Barreto, S.R., Benitez, S., Bradely, A., Bremer, L.L et al. (2018). Water Funds: Field Guide 2018. The Nature Conservancy.

Bremer, L.L., Wada, C., Burnett, K., Medoff, S., Page, J., Lee, S., Allen, S., & Falinki, K. (2018). Economic Valuation of The Nature Conservancy’s Watershed Conservation Activities in Waikamoi Preserve, Maui. UHERO report for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi.

Wada, C., Bremer, L.L, Burnett, K., Trauernicht, C., Giambelluca, T., Mandle, L., Parsons, E., Weil, C., Kurashima, N., & Ticktin, T. (2017) Estimating cost-effectiveness of dry forest restoration using spatial changes in water yield and landscape flammability under climate change. Pacific Science. 71(4), 401-424. https://doi.org/10.2984/71.4.2

Farley, K. A., & Bremer, L.L. (2017). “Water Is Life”: Local Perceptions of Páramo Grasslands and Land Management Strategies Associated with Payment for Ecosystem Services. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 4452, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2016.1254020

Vogl, A.L., Goldstein, J.H., Daily, G.C.,Vira, B., Bremer, L.L., McDonald, R.I., Shemie, D. Tellman, B., & Cassin. J. (2017). Mainstreaming investments in watershed services to enhance water security: Barriers and opportunities. Environmental Science and Policy, 75, 19–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2017.05.007

Bremer, L.L. (2017). Bringing multiple values to the table in local decision making – NSF Coastal SEES., UHERO blog 14 December 2017.

Hamel, P. & L.L. Bremer. (2017). How to reach a mature anthropocene. Future Earth 4, October 2017.

Abell, R., Asquith, N., Boccaletti, G., Bremer, L. et al. (2017). Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. 

Bremer, L.L. & Meza Prado, K. (2017). Seven Things We Learned By Listening To Those Who Make Water Funds Happen. Cool Green Science 4 August 2017

Bremer, L.L., Farley, K.A., Chadwick, O.A., & Harden, C.P. (2016). Changes in carbon storage with land management promoted by payment for ecosystem services. Environmental Conservation, 43, 397–406. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0376892916000199   

Bremer, L.L., Auerbach, D.A., Goldstein, J.H., Vogl, A.L., Shemie, D., Kroeger, T., Nelson, J.L., Benítez, S.P., Calvache, A., Guimarães, J., Herron, C., Higgins, J., Klemz, C., León, J., Sebastián, J., Moreno, P.H., Nuñez, F., Veiga, F., & Tiepolo, G. (2016). One size does not fit all: Natural infrastructure investments within the Latin American Water Funds Partnership. Ecosystem Services, 17, 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2015.12.006

Bremer, L.L, Vogl, A., Petry, P., & Debievre, B (eds). (2016). Bridging Theory and Practice in Hydrological Monitoring in Water Funds. The Nature Conservancy, CONDESAN, and The Natural Capital Project Practitioner guidance document. Spanish and English versions.

Bremer, L.L., Gammie, G, & Maldonado, O. 2016. Designing and Assessing Water Fund Projects: Participatory Social Impact Assessment for AquaFondo, the Water Fund for Lima. Forest Trends & The Natural Capital Project case study. Spanish and English versions.

Bremer, L.L, Ricketts, T., Manning, R., & Trevino, K. New Park Resources. (2016). In: Manning, R., Diamant, R., Mitchell, N., Harmond, D. (eds.). A Thinking Person’s Guide to National Parks. George Braziller Publishers, New York.

Naeem, S. Ingram, J.C., Varga, A., Agardy, T., Barten, P., Bennett, G., Bloomgarden, E., Bremer, L.L. et al. (2015). Getting the science right when paying for nature’s Services. Science. 347 (6227), 1206-1207. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa1403  

Bremer, L.L., Delevaux, J., Leary, J.K., Cox, L.J., & Oleson, K.L. (2015). Opportunities and strategies to incorporate ecosystem services knowledge and decision support tools into planning and decision making in Hawaiʻi. Environmental Management. 55(4), 884-899. 

Bremer, L. (2015). Six Things I’ve Learned About Water Funds. Natural Capital Project Blog. 1 November 2015.

Bremer, L.L & Farley, K.A. (2015). Livelihood outcomes of payment for ecosystem services in Ecuadorian highland Andean grasslands. Landscapes for people, food, and nature blog. 16 February, 2015.

Harden, C.P., Farley, K.A., & Bremer, L.L. (2015). Servicios ambientales ecosistémicos y cambio en el uso de suelo en el páramo. Report for Fundación Cordillera Tropical. 78 pages.

Tallis, H., J. Lubchenco + 238 co-signatories (including L.L. Bremer). (2014). Working together: A call for inclusive conservation. Nature. 515, 27-28. https://doi.org/10.1038/515027a

Rosenthal, A., Verutes, G., McKenzie, E., Arkema, K.K., Nirmal, B., Bremer, L.L., Olwero, N., & Vogl, A.L. (2014). Process matters: a framework for conducting decision-relevant assessments of ecosystem services. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services, and Management. https://doi.org/10.1080/21513732.2014.966149

Bremer, L.L., Farley, K.A., & Lopéz-Carr, D. (2014). Conservation and livelihood outcomes of payment for ecosystem services in the Ecuadorian Andes: what is the potential for win-win? Ecosystem Services 8, 148-165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.03.007 

Bremer, L.L., Farley K.A., & Lopéz-Carr, D. (2014). What factors influence participation in Payment for Ecosystem Services programs? An evaluation of Ecuador’s SocioPáramo program. Land Use Policy, 36, 122-133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.08.002

Auerbach, D. & Bremer, L.L. (2014). Mosquitoes, heat, and floods: the challenges of monitoring in water funds. Cool Green Science. 18 September 2014.

Harden, C.P., Hartsig, J., Farley, K.A., Lee, J, & Bremer, L.L. (2013). Effects of land-use change on water in Andean páramo grassland soils. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(2), 375-384. https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2013.754655

Higgins, J.V. and Zimmerling, A. (Eds). (2013). With contributions from: Bremer, L., Boucher, T., Higgins, J., Kroeger, T.,Leisher, J., and Petry, P. A Primer for Monitoring Water Funds. Arlington, VA: The Nature Conservancy.

Farley K.A., Bremer L.L., & Harden C.P. (2012). Changes in carbon storage under alternative land uses in biodiverse Andean grasslands: implications for payment for ecosystem services. Conservation Letters, 6(1), 21-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00267.x

Farley K.A., Anderson W.G, Bremer L.L., and Harden C.P. (2011). Compensation for ecosystem services: an evaluation of efforts to achieve conservation and development in Ecuadorian páramo grasslands. Environmental Conservation, 38(4), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1017/S037689291100049X

Bremer L.L. and Farley K.A. (2011). Carbon trading. In: Schiffman, H., & Robbins, P. (Eds), Green Issues and Debates, Sage Green Series Volume 12. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Bremer L.L. & Farley K.A. (2010). Does plantation forestry restore biodiversity or create green deserts? A synthesis of the effects of land-use transitions on plant species richness. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19(14), 3893-3915. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9936-4

Bremer L., Carr, D.L., Farley, K.A. (2010). Afforestation. In: Mulvaney, D., Robbins, P. (Eds), Green Politics: An A to Z Guide. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Good environmental policy requires understanding people

A forest, coral reef, rangeland or any other ecosystem does not necessarily provide the same benefits to everyone. A healthy forest can link to community …


Publication: Increasing decision relevance of ecosystem service science

Congratulations to UHERO’s Leah Bremer on her publication in Nature Sustainability. To calculate the true value of a forest, we need to know how people …


Spatial Planning to Inform Expansion of Agroforestry for Cultural, Ecological & Economic Benefits

Agroforestry systems, along with loʻi kalo and other systems, were abundant in traditional Hawaiʻi, and there is great interest in their restoration today. This project …