Jeff Opperman is the director and lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Saving Rivers Strategy. Jeff has been working to protect rivers and lakes for more than 15 years. He has provided strategic and scientific guidance to freshwater conservation projects across the United States as well as in China, Africa and Latin America. Through strategy development, scientific research, and support to field projects, Jeff focuses on protecting and restoring river-floodplain ecosystems and improving the environmental sustainability of hydropower.
Jeff in the News
Follow Jeff and his family as they travel down the Mekong River.
Jeff shares with Outside the story of how his family helped "rescue" steelhead from their shallow neighborhood creek.
On the Guardian's Sustainable Business Water Hub, Jeff writes about a project along the Penobscot River will increase fish populations, generate energy and provide an example for other projects to follow.
On Care2, Jeff shares why cloudy skies are good for freshwater.
In Grist, Jeff ponders what a going-out-of-business sale says about the environmental movement.
In Grist, Jeff ranks the climate change vulnerability of 50 American cities.
Climate Wire turns to Jeff for analysis on the Administration’s vision for improving the sustainability of hydropower.
Studies by Jeff
The Nature Conservancy's white paper explores the potential for achieving more balanced outcomes from hydropower development that works for people and nature. Read the white paper.
Writing for National Geographic, Jeff reveals what it’s like to study the longest river in Honduras before it’s dammed.
Jeff talks to the BBC about his paper in Science urging changes in the way the world manages floodplains.
Blogs by Jeff
Concentration, Confrontation, Collaboration: The Future of River Conservation and Sustainable Hydropower
Yes, hydropower will always have impacts. But, Jeff asks, could looking at dams across river systems offer dramatic benefits for people and nature?
Jeff describes how the world can achieve a future with both sustainable energy and healthy rivers.
The standard story: big dams disrupt the livelihoods of rural villages. But many communities welcome development; Jeff asks, can conservation minimize hydropower impacts?
Jeff and Qiaoyu Guo make the case that conservationists need a broader vocabulary to deal with dams than just the word “no."
Fighting dams is in the environmental movement's DNA. But is it time to change? Jeff argues that science-based collaboration offers a better future for rivers and fish -- and the people who depend on them.
Dam removal on Maine's Penobscot River means a brighter future for Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish. But an even greater value of the Penobscot may in fact lie in its meaning for countries that are just now beginning to plan and build dams. Jeff explores the possibilities.
Jeff writes about the value conservation adds to peoples' lives.
Floods destroy, Jeff writes, but they also create.
Jeff reflects on the 2011 Mississippi floods by focusing on what worked — and how we can build on it for even better river management.
Jeff discusses the American penchant to live where it’s sunny and why that’s bad for water sustainability.
Water doesn’t come from the tap or grocery store shelves, Jeff writes. It comes from nature. We need nature for clean water.
In a personal tribute to his area of expertise, Jeff discusses why he’s always been drawn toward rivers.
Jeff writes on the importance of the world’s deltas and why human activity is threatening these valuable resources.
Jager, H. I., Efroymson, R. A., Opperman, J. J., & Kelly, M. R. (2015). Spatial design principles for sustainable hydropower development in river basins. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 45, 808-816.
Opperman, J. J., J. Hartmann, and D. Harrison. 2015. Hydropower and the energy-water-climate nexus. in J. Pittock, editor. Climate, energy and water: managing a complex trinity. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Opperman, J. J., G. E. Galloway, and S. Duvail. 2013. The multiple benefits of river-floodplain connectivity for people and biodiversity. Pages 144-160 in S. Levin, editor. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, second edition, Volume 7. Academic Press, Waltham, MA.
Opperman, J. J., R. Luster, B. A. McKenney, M. Roberts, and A. W. Meadows. 2010. Ecologically functional floodplains: connectivity, flow regime, and scale. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 46: 211-226.
Esselman, P. and J. J. Opperman. 2010. Overcoming information limitations for developing an environmental flow prescription for a Central American River. Ecology and Society 15 (1) article 6;
Opperman JJ, Galloway GE, Fargione J, Mount JF, Richter BD, Secchi S. 2009. Sustainable floodplains through large-scale reconnection to rivers. Science 326: 1487-1488.
Opperman, J. J. 2009. In the beginning: a river on fire; blaze on the Cuyahoga marked start of an era that needs to be celebrated. Op-ed piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 21, 2009.
Opperman, J., J. Mount, and P. Moyle. 2004. The rivers tell us how to reduce the flood peril. Op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee, April 25, 2004.
Jeff Opperman, Ph.D.
Director and Lead Scientist, Saving Rivers
Jeff Opperman is the director and lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Program. Jeff has been working to protect rivers and lakes for more than 15 years. He has provided strategic and scientific guidance to freshwater conservation projects across the United States as well as in China, Africa and Latin America. Through strategy development, scientific research, and support to field projects, Jeff focuses on protecting and restoring river-floodplain ecosystems and improving the environmental sustainability of hydropower.
Jeff earned his B.S. in Biology from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He then studied floodplain ecology during a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis. His scientific and policy research has been published in journals such as Science, BioScience and Ecological Applications. Jeff strives to communicate the challenges and opportunities of protecting fresh water through op-eds, articles and blog posts in such places as The New York Times, Outside, Grist, and The Guardian.