Linda E. Mendez Barrientos

Assistant Professor

  • Faculty

What I do

I study the role of power asymmetries in the design and implementation of sustainability and equity reforms. Using a mixed-methods approach, I focus on processes of institutional change, cooperation, inclusion and representation in policy processes, and the development of institutional outputs and distribution of outcomes. Up until now, I've examined two major water reforms: California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA 2014), aimed at solving the state’s groundwater overdraft crisis, and South Africa's National Water Act (NWA 1998), which was designed to address apartheid’s legacy of inequality in water access. My new research project leverages network theory and methods to reveal the global networks that perpetuate environmental injustices, as well as those that resist them across the world.

Professional Biography

Born and raised in Nicaragua, I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California Davis, and hold two master’s degrees, one on Water Management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and the other on Tropical Agrarian Systems from Montpellier SupAgro in France. I'm also the recipient of a number of prestigious and competitive awards, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (2016-2021), NSF Integrative Graduate Education & Research Traineeship (2015-2017), and European Commission Agris Mundus Scholarship (2008-2010). To date, my work has been published in Society & Natural Resources, Ecology & Society, Environment and Planning E: Nature & Space, Water Policy, and the International Journal of Water Resources Development. Before academia, I also served as an environmental policy analyst for several years with the Environmental Defense Fund.

I'm also the founder of s2e-Science to Empower, an environmental justice initiative that leverages data and innovative research to empower those at the forefront of environmental crises. Through collaboration among communities, advocates, and scientists, s2e aims to co-create a global network to monitor environmental injustices, facilitate environmental accountability and human rights protection, and increase the participation of diverse and historically excluded voices in the decisions that define new sustainable trajectories.


  • Ph.D., Ecology, University of California Davis, 2021
  • MS, Tropical Agrarian Systems, Montpellier SupAgro, 2010
  • MS, International Land and Water Management, Wageningen University, 2010
  • BS, Environmental Sciences and Development Economics, Pan-American School of Agriculture Zamorano, 2007

Professional Affiliations

  • International Association for the Study of the Commons