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Louie Rivers

Assoc Professor

Jordan Hall Addition 2219



B.S., Kentucky State University (2001)
M.S., The Ohio State University (2003)
Ph.D., The Ohio State University (2006)

Research Interests

My research focuses on the examination of risk and judgment and decision process in minority and marginalized communities, particularly in regards to the natural environment

Current Projects & Collaborations


ET 455 – Adaptive Management and Governance


  • Gibbs, C., Cassidy, M., Rivers, L. (accepted, in publication). Criminal opportunity structures and the global carbon market. Law & Policy.
  • Larkins, M.J., Gibbs, C., Rivers, L., (accepted, in publication), Toward advancing research on the social and environmental impacts of confined animal feeding operations. The Journal of Social Criminology.
  • Rivers, L., Norris, A. & McGarrell, E. 2012. Mental Model of the Drug Market Intervention.Journal of Drug Issues, 42, 1, pp. 59-81.
  • Larkins, M.J., Gibbs, C., Rivers, L., Dobson, T. 2012. Expanding Environmental Justice: A Case Study of Community Risk and Benefit Perceptions of Industrial Animal Farming Operations. Race, Gender & Class, 19, pp. 218-243.
  • Parker, J., Wilson, R., LeJeune, J., Rivers, L., Doohan, D. 2012. An expert guide to understanding grower decisions related to fresh fruit and vegetable contamination prevention and control. Food Control, 26, 1, pp. 107-116.
  • Rivers, L. & Gibbs, C. 2011. Applying a Conservation Criminology framework to Common Pool Natural Resource Issues. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice,35, 4, pp. 327-346.
  • Gibbs, C., McGarrell, E., Axelrod, M., Rivers, L. 2011. Conservation criminology and the Global trade in Electronic Waste: Applying a Multi-Disciplinary Research Framework. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 35, 4, pp.269-291.
  • RiversL., Arvai, J. & Slovic, P. 2010. Beyond a simple case of black and white: Searching for the White Male Effect in the African American community. Risk Analysis, 30, 1, pp. 65-77.
  • Gibbs, C., Gore, M., McGarrell, E., & Rivers, L. 2009. Introducing Conservation Criminology: Towards interdisciplinary scholarship on environmental crimes and risks. British Journal of Criminology, 50, 124-144.
  • Rivers, L., Wilson, R. & Arvai, J. 2008. More than just a message: Risk communication and the decision-making process. Fire Social Science Research From the Pacific Southwest Research Station: Studies Supported by National Fire Plan Funds. United States Department of Agriculture. General Technical Report PSW-GTR-209 2008.
  • Rivers, L., and Arvai, J. 2007. Win some, lose some: The effect of chronic losses on decision making under risk. Journal of Risk Research, 10, 1085-1099.
  • Rivers, L. 2006. A post-Katrina call to action for the risk analysis community. Risk Analysis, 26, 1, pp. 1-2.
  • Arvai, J.L., Campbell, V.E.A., Baird, A., & Rivers, L.. 2004. Teaching students to make better environmental decisions. Journal of Environmental Education, 36, 1, pp. 33-44.

Area(s) of Expertise

Risk, Judgement and Decision Process in Minority and Marginalized Communities


Date: 01/15/21 - 1/14/26
Amount: $262,500.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

Environmental justice (EJ) is an academic and a policy framework intended to help count the full societal costs of decisions about environmental management, food production, and other activities, including many within the purview of the US Department of Agriculture. However, scientists and other professionals in agriculture and natural resources rarely encounter EJ in their academic training. Fewer still have research experiences or hands-on training that centers on EJ. This project will recruit and mentor doctoral students who will gain a strong working knowledge EJ policy and its intersections with other areas of expertise within Forestry and Environmental Resources. Students will acquire research skills and leadership experiences related to implementation of EJ policies and analytical frameworks within their knowledge domains. The project will recruit students from diverse backgrounds, and especially those with demonstrable commitments to marginalized communities on whom EJ policies often center. To accomplish this, the project will take advantage of North Carolina State University’s critical mass of EJ scholars and existing partnerships with Tribes and community-based groups. Careful recruiting and mentoring will ensure that students are successful. Deep integration of EJ and related topics into curricula will ensure that students have a firm grasp of EJ that complements other academic work. Internships and specialized training will help students be prepared for future leadership. Benchmarks will assess success of the project, including the extent to which it advances the USDA goal of “increas(ing) the number, quality and diversity of students in the food, agricultural and related sciences.”

Date: 04/01/20 - 3/31/25
Amount: $246,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The US South has 245 million acres of forestland covering 46% of total land use. This region is the largest wood basket in the world where 60% of US timber derives largely from managed softwood plantations and hardwood forests. These forest systems are major economic engines to rural economies. However, nationwide, forest resources has the lowest minority representation within Food, Agricultural, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences and even lower representation in the US South. Diversity enrollment and matriculation have failed due to poor intersections of academic support, peer community support, mentoring, leadership development, and “readiness” work skills. This NNF program builds on a pilot program to pipeline minority undergraduates from HBCUs to successful graduate training in forest resources at NC State University (NCSU). The proposed program recruits HBCU undergraduates and offers pre-admission mentoring and professional development for a Master’s of Forestry at NCSU. Our NNF program will recruit and retain four, high-caliber minority forestry graduate students and prepare them for matriculation and professional success through NNF-specific programmatic, curricular, and industry experiences in forest resources. Key NNF program elements are a minority Mentoring/Leadership Community (MLC), certified forest curriculum, and industry internships in the automation, economics, biotechnology, and science communication of forest resources. The NNF cohort will mentor minority undergraduates, disseminate their experiences, network with professionals, and participate in annual NNF program performance assessment to support pipeline sustainability. This project supports USDA’s goal to develop a diverse and highly-skilled workforce for employment shortages in forest resources.

Date: 09/01/21 - 8/31/23
Amount: $949,999.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Commerce (DOC)

Recent extreme weather and climate events in our region (e.g., 2016 Wildfires, Hurricanes Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), Florence (2018), and Dorian (2019)) signal a significant change from the past, causing unprecedented damage across the Carolinas. The Carolinas are getting wetter, hotter, and more humid in a changing climate. Climate change has and will continue to impact the health and well-being of every community, but not all communities are affected equally . The experiences of minority and underserved communities at the start of the climate crisis will be reproduced in other parts of society as climate change impacts become more pronounced and widespread. These communities are the canaries in the coal mines for the rest of society. The proposed RISA team will build upon years of regional work on climate science, tools and assessments to move into a new phase that centers Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) principles at the forefront of NOAA-funded climate research, and to deliver climate futures to more communities than have been previously served. We will apply a bottom-up participatory action approach to develop a transferrable model for end-to-end co-production of actionable and equitable climate resilience solutions in at-risk communities in the Carolinas. Our aims include: Aim 0. Demonstrate our commitment to addressing the climate reality in a just and equitable way, while ensuring the inclusivity and diversity of all voices are represented in every aspect of our work in the Carolinas; Aim 1. Build and enhance local partnerships in underserved communities across the Carolinas to identify, test, and refine equitable solutions for climate resilience; Aim 2. Understand and predict how co-occurring and consecutive hazards interact with exposure and vulnerability to shape climate risk; Aim 3. Identify and connect the complex linkages between structures of power, intersecting social positions, and climate-health inequities in vulnerable communities; and Aim 4. Design and implement community-sciences programs to track physical and social science metrics and build community-level climate resiliency literacy. Our proposed work addresses the goals of the RISA program by combining regional relevance and local expertise in the Carolinas. Our innovative, integrated physical and social science research will be tailored to the needs and priorities of the participating communities. The solutions we co-produce with minority, low-income communities will be designed to tackle both the societal drivers of risk and the changing climate hazard landscape through knowledge to action networks. The long term goal to devise a national model for addressing the roots of climate inequity through place-based research and education will serve the broader national network of adaptation practitioners.

Date: 11/10/21 - 6/30/23
Amount: $0.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

For Cost share only

Date: 02/01/21 - 6/30/23
Amount: $197,274.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The highly urbanized Walnut Creek Watershed flows from downtown Cary and through part of downtown Raleigh into the Neuse River. Erosive stormwater flows from an increasing percentage of impervious areas have impaired the aquatic life of Walnut Creek and placed it on the EPA 303(d) list. In order to effectively and efficiently improve water quality of Walnut Creek, it is critical to address site-specific issues throughout the watershed. The Rochester Heights Creek drainage area, a tributary of Walnut Creek in Southeast Raleigh, has been selected as a focus area for restoration to reduce stormwater flows, reduce erosion and sedimentation, and address downstream flooding of private properties. This focus area is the first of a new online watershed plan called the Walnut Creek Watershed Action Tool (WAT) that is being developed by the NC Division of Water Resources. Rochester Heights Creek flows through parts of the Biltmore Hills and Rochester Heights neighborhoods, the first planned developments for African Americans in Raleigh. Properties adjacent to the lower part of the creek experience regular backyard flooding, and some are located within and immediately adjacent to the FEMA 100-year floodplain, placing them at high risk for major flooding following increasingly intense rainfall events. This project proposes to install several stormwater control measures (SCM), including bioretention, swales and rainwater harvesting systems, to treat stormwater runoff in Biltmore Hills Park before it enters Rochester Heights Creek. The activities performed within this project will be the first contribution to a larger effort within the Rochester Heights Focus Area to reduce flows and erosion, address the impacts that common rain storms have on downstream neighbors, and engage the local community in water quality education, and project planning and implementation. Further, this will be a demonstration site for SCM projects developed with a historically marginalized community that address environmental and social watershed problems. By improving water quality and engaging the community in those efforts, this project aims to directly benefit the Rochester Heights Creek sub-watershed as well as the larger Walnut Creek, into which it drains, and could serve as a model for future efforts within the state of NC more broadly.

Date: 07/01/20 - 9/30/22
Amount: $199,371.00
Funding Agencies: US Forest Service

Despite many benefits of urban greening, tree-planting programs in diverse communities nationwide often face strong local resistance, especially on private lands. This resistance impacts the success of initiatives such as Green Heart, an urban greening effort in Louisville, KY, designed to create healthier neighborhoods by encouraging tree planting to mitigate air pollution. Working with leaders of Green Heart, our project will investigate various factors (social and/or environmental) that influence the success of greening interventions and identify environmentally just practices to promote healthy urban communities across the US. Using Louisville as a case study, with lessons learned from other cities, we aim to: (1) Synthesize current state of knowledge regarding public support for urban greening across diverse communities; (2) Identify factors associated with tree-planting program success; (3) Examine public perceptions of relationships between urban trees, health, and neighborhood change; and (4) Define and share best practices to promote a national community of practice focused on equitable and inclusive urban greening. Our efforts will culminate in a “best practice” guide and toolkit, shared with a growing national community of practice promoting social equity in urban forestry. Ultimately, the project will identify strategies to promote urban greening with communities, not just within communities. 

Date: 05/01/20 - 7/31/22
Amount: $52,910.00
Funding Agencies: JPB Foundation

TCF has selected the Walnut Creek Wetland Community Partnership, with the fiscal agency of and supported by NC State University’s Water Resource Research Institute (NCSU WRRI), and NCSU College of Natural Resources as a key partner organization for the PWP Initiative in Raleigh. In 2020, WCWCP commits to the following work: deepen the project’s engagement with the community, particularly the neighborhoods of Biltmore Hills and Rochester Heights; assist in implementing the Bailey Drive Gateway Project that was selected by the community; and build partnerships and capacity for long term management, engagement, and community-led stewardship.

Date: 08/15/16 - 7/31/21
Amount: $291,974.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Despite sharing similar scientific foundations, genetically modified (GM) trees have lagged far behind GM crops in terms of development and commercialization. Proponents lament the failure to realize more quickly the potential of a powerful technology, but the delay has also created space for strategic consideration of how to navigate public perceptions and regulatory oversight. This proposal focuses on the GM American chestnut (GMAC) as a case study for three reasons: a narrative of ecological restoration may disrupt anti-GMO sentiments motivated by environmental values; GMAC scientists have explicitly engaged public audiences and stakeholder across multiple institutional contexts; and the GMAC is designed to spread into the environment, raising new governance questions at the same time that the White House has called for reviewing the U.S. regulatory framework on plant biotechnologies.Research will focus on four sets of "Core" GMAC stakeholders. 1) Biotechnologists: Building on a 2014 pilot study, key GMAC scientists will be interviewed. 2) Indigenous Stakeholders: Given the overlap between Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) tribal lands and proposed release sites for the GMAC, project personnel will collaborate with SUNY-ESF’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment (CNPE). 3) Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): First, the Institute of Forest Bioscience (IFB), which is dedicated to the "responsible use" of forest biotechnology and the principles of "science, dialogue, and stewardship," will be the site of an institutional ethnography. Second, emergent coalitions of NGOs surrounding the GMAC will undergo a narrative policy framework analysis. 4) Public Audiences: Collaborating with IFB and the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, the project team will host a workshop that brings together GMAC stakeholders to plan the next iteration of public engagement following soon-to-be published results of a national survey of public attitudes on the GMAC

Date: 07/01/19 - 2/28/21
Amount: $34,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

To conduct an evaluation of the Lowcountry Sustainable Forestry African American Land Retention Program, partially funded by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to document the effectiveness of the program and the network that has been created to deliver services.

Date: 08/12/19 - 6/30/20
Amount: $10,000.00
Funding Agencies: Pisces Foundation

WRRI and College of Natural Resources will continue working with partners from the Walnut Creek Wetland Community Partnership to engage community members south of the Walnut Creek Wetlands in learning about and implementing green infrastructure to address community interests. We'll specifically engage residents living adjacent to the Rochester Heights tributary in stabilizing eroding streambanks through streamside vegetation, and will identify stormwater runoff mitigation opportunities upstream in that watershed.

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