Portrait of Ekta J. Patel

Ekta J. Patel

Hello! I recently received my Ph.D. in Environmental Policy with a concentration in Political Science from Duke University. My research interests include water governance, environmental resources management, and climate change adaptation. I apply both quantitative and qualitative methods in my work, including computational text analysis, geospatial analysis, discourses, process tracing, and interviews.

I have assisted teaching courses on U.S. and global environmental politics, environmental law, and peacebuilding, including co-teaching a seminar on Mapping WASH and COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa. I have also consulted and conducted research for various organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), on topics related to water security, food, land, biodiversity, and conflict.

Prior to Duke, I was a business analyst and product designer at an education technology start-up and received a B.A. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard University. I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and now reside in Durham, NC.



UN Water Expert Group timeline

Managing (Unconventional) Water: Essays on Expert Knowledge, Media Framings, and Stakeholder Debates

This dissertation examines how water management is shaped at the level of international organizations and what information on desalination is shared and debated across two other policy-relevant settings: the global media and a local community. It focuses on these three different settings to capture wide information streams that individually and collectively generate some of the corpus of knowledge on water management and desalination.


Book Chapters

Rights, resilience, and water in turbulent times,” with Erika Weinthal, In Global Environmental Politics in a Turbulent Era, 2023.

Illegal Wildlife Trade in the Mekong,” with Songkhun Nillasithanukroh, Edmund Malesky, and Erika Weinthal, In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Politics, 2022.


Cover page of Water and Conflict Report Cover page of Scaling Back Wildlife Trade in the Mekong Delta Report

Water and Conflict: A Toolkit for Programming,” with Erika Weinthal, Geoff Dabelko, Carl Bruch, Jack Daly, and Nikki Behnke, prepared for USAID, January 2023.

Scaling Back Wildlife Trade in the Mekong Delta: Applying a Political Economy Lens to the Farmer Loophole with a Focus on Vietnam and Laos,” with Edmund Malesky, Songkhun Nillasithanukroh, and Erika Weinthal, prepared for USAID, June 2019.