Derek Kauneckis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Areas of Interest: Public Policy, Institutional Design and Analysis, Environmental Policy, Property Rights Theory, Research Methods, and Comparative Public Policy.


Ph.D., International Development, Indiana University at Bloomington
M.S., International Development, UC Davis


Derek Kauneckis’ (Ph.D. Public Policy, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2005) research involves understanding local-level processes in public policy development, including local governance arrangements in environmental and science & technology policy.  His research has included examining collaborative policy networks, the role of local governments in climate policy, and decision-making by water managers.  Current projects include explaining the diversity of property rights arrangements to environmental resources, incorporating behavioral theories into policy design, and climate change adaptation policy.  His expertise includes environmental decision-making, institutional analysis and development, and policy evaluation and analysis. 


Most of Kauneckis' research can be described as seeking to better understand how institutional and decision structures influence the use of natural resources.  “I'm interested in how policy can be designed to better deal with the challenges of managing natural resources, and human needs,” Kauneckis said. “Dealing with the impact of a global industrialization of ecosystems on the planet and how to manage both human well-being and natural system is one of the most significant challenges we face.”  One of the institutional structures that link human action to environmental resources is that of property rights.  Kauneckis explained that understanding property rights is critical to understanding environmental policy since they create the fundamental incentives for the management of resources.  However, “We often have an overly simplistic view of the different types of property rights, what it takes to make property rights effective, and don’t fully understand the dynamic relationship between how rights response to environmental change”.  “I'm interested in what are sometimes called mixed property rights regimes and the explicit role different organizations such as government and communities play in creating and enforcing different property right structures,” he said. “By examining the source of institutions we can develop a better understanding of the variety of property right regimes that surround natural resources.”  Much of Kauneckis’ work focuses on the organizational level of local government and communities, including a recent project focused on climate change adaptation.  “We're looking at policy change at the local government level,” Kauneckis said. “Local governments are responsible for the majority of public goods and services citizens use and climate change has profound implications for how these are delivered in the future.  There is enormous variation in how they incorporate information and are able to incorporate climatic uncertainty in planning as well as dealing with local decisions making structures.”

Prof. Kauneckis has conducted research both domestically and internationally including working with the environmental policy communities at Lake Tahoe (USA) and Lake Baikal (Russia), water organizations in Jaipur (India), conservation managers and land owners at the Calakmul Biosphere in Yucatan (Mexico) and rural Indiana (USA), indigenous Kekchi Maya communities (Belize), and water managers on the Truckee and Sacramento River systems (USA).  Professor Kauneckis’ is the recipient of the 2008 Faculty Mentor Senior Scholar Award and a finalist for the 2007 Senator Alan Bible Teaching Award.  He teaches Environmental Policy, Public Policy, Public Finance, Government Budgeting and Quantitative Methodology and Modeling. 

Current Research Projects

State-level Science and Technology Policy
Nevada Climate Change Infrastructure Project
Lake Tahoe Policy Evaluation and Landowner Survey


Laurel Saito, M. ASCE, Fritz Fiedler, Barbara Cosens, and Derek Kauneckis. Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Water and Environmental Resources in 2050 ASCE Conf. Proc. doi:10.1061/41114(371)29.
World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2010: Challenges of Change Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2010

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Derek Kauneckis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and
Graduate Director
(775) 682-7765