“A geologist and geographer by training, I teach environmental science and planning, hydrology, and river restoration at UC Berkeley.
I first came to Portugal in 1995 to speak at a conference and while here a colleague took me to see the Sado River in the Alentejo. I was struck by strong parallels to California. Mediterranean-climate rivers, be they Californian or Portuguese, have highly seasonal flows, tend to carry high sediment loads, and can best be described as episodic. After many years of low flows, big floods rip through, tearing out trees and leaving wide, sand and gravel channels that gradually revegetate so that a decade later the channel is again narrow, flanked by a riparian woodland. Because Mediterranean-climate rivers flow mostly in winter, while human demands (mostly for irrigation) are greatest in the summer, they tend to be more heavily affected by human alterations than humid-climate rivers. California and Portugal share this kind of rivers, and both have rapidly expanding urban areas and growing awareness of the environmental costs of water diversions and pollution.
I returned to Portugal in 1996 and 1999 to study channel change on seven tributaries to the Sado River, all dammed under the Estado Novo of the Salazar regime, and to work with Portuguese colleagues to help develop guidelines for environmental management of Portuguese waterways.
These trips, while productive and stimulating, were short and felt more like movie trailers than feature films. As I grew more and more fascinated by the Alentejo countryside and the Lisbon streets, I was frustrated by not having an adequate block of time to dig into the research and to settle in to Portuguese life. With a semester’s sabbatical coming up in 2001, I applied for a three-month Fulbright appointment to teach and conduct research at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia(ISA), Technical University of Lisbon.
The Fulbright grant gave me the opportunity to get involved in Portuguese rivers on a deeper level: to plan and carry out field work, to analyze results, to work closely with Portuguese students on the research, to coordinate with colleagues to visit rivers in other parts of the country, to give a college-wide lecture, and to help teach a class of seniors.
I was assigned an office in the library and developed a rhythm, commuting from Principe Real to Tapada da Ajuda daily, learning my way around Lisbon’s streets and soaking in their unique atmosphere, enjoying Portuguese cuisine in the many nearby tascas, and keeping myself well-caffeinated with bicas from the many cafés on and near the ISA campus. I also got out to the Alentejo countryside to do field work on the rivers and to absorb its compelling, irresistible landscape.
I also had a chance to indulge in my passion for azulejos, the distinctively Portuguese tiles that adorn so many interior and exterior walls in Lisbon and elsewhere. I have always loved hand-painted decorative tiles, but on my first visit to Lisbon, seeing the celebration of tiles in everyday life, I felt as if I had awakened in a dream. Here the tiles were ubiquitous, adorning buildings grand and plain, enriching everyday life. I began my pilgrimages to the National Tile Museum in the Church of Madre de Deus and other buildings with great tiles of the 17th and 18th C, scoured antique shops along Escola Politecnica and the thieves’ market for old tiles, and found a wonderful selection of new tiles available at Viuva Lamego near Carmo. When I departed Lisbon, I brought with me a number of tiles, a delightful reminder of Portugal.
Since my sabbatical in 2001, I have come to Portugal three times to work with Portuguese colleagues on research topics, most recently to lead a workshop on the Aqueduto das Aguas Livres involving students in urban planning, landscape architecture, and architecture at the Faculdade de Arquitectura.
My experiences in Portugal have certainly influenced the direction of my research, and now as Chair of the Portuguese Studies Program at Berkeley, have been active in administering an endowment to support students of Portuguese descent at Berkeley, hosting a California-Portuguese conference on Mediterranean-climate rivers, and in establishing exchange agreements with universities in Portugal and the Azores.”
US Fulbright Scholar at Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, AY 2000/2001