Kate Showers
Visiting Fellow


Dr. Showers' broad range of interests can be summed by the question: How do humanity and landscapes interact? Her approach to problems begins with an earth-centered analysis and moves out to human actions and perceptions. Since environmental processes occur over various lengths of time, the research is inherently historical and the results considered to be environmental history. The work is also embraced as political ecology. As well as subject matter, Dr. Showers is interested in research methodologies - most particularly in exploring the gains made from the perspectives of multiple disciplinary perspectives. Her research methodology is always interdisciplinary, with the specific techniques dictated by the problem at hand.

A study of soil erosion and soil conservation in the Kingdom of Lesotho, southern Africa, began as an evaluation of erosion processes utilizing not only western science, but also the observations and theories of rural land users, as well as archival materials. It grew into an analysis of the international movement of ideas about soil erosion and soil conservation in the 20th century. One of the results of this work was the formulation of an analytical framework called Historical Environmental Impact Assessment (HEIA).

To test the utility of such an approach to environmental change, the scale of interest was shifted from water moving through channels in fields to water moving in stream channels. A preliminary literature-review based HEIA of southern African dams highlighted Africa's extreme lack of environmental data, and elucidated the use of environmental control in asserting and contesting political power.

Interations between planted alien tree species and the larger landscape was explored in a Leverhulme Trust funded grant (2007-2009) "Foresting a grassland: Towards an environmental history of Lesotho". Field work was implemented by an interdisciplinary team (Biology and Development Studies, National University of Lesotho) led by Dr. Showers and based at the National University of Lesotho. Data collection included botanical surveys, oral history, community mapping and archival research in Europe and Lesotho. The resesarch design framework was an HEIA

Research at a continental scale included a history of African soils for the last 7,000 years; classification system for African rivers by European use categories; policy analysis of the consequences of biofules production for African soils; and history of the relationship between electricity generation, policy and water cycles on the African continent.

Current projects: continued studies of the environmental consequences of African power generation, with particular attention to water cycles.