Many Meanings of Water

The WPU Anthropology Club

"Beyond Cultural Borders"



Wednesday, November 8, 2017, from 12:30-3:00 p.m.

Student Center, Multipurpose Room at William Paterson University

Our Panelists

DaviDr. Nicole Davi is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science at William Paterson University and an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Dr. Davi’s research focuses on developing and interpreting high-resolution paleoclimatic records in order to further our understanding of past natural and recent anthropogenic climate change over the past 2000 years. Three main themes have driven her work throughout her academic and research career (1) Understanding climate change on long-term scales and the climate impacts on the landscape and people; (2) Building interdisciplinary research partnerships to apply new approaches to environmental problems; and (3) Working with students, teachers, public audiences and artists to communicate the excitement of scientific explorations and the significance of the results.

SmithMr. Matt Smith is a Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch in New Jersey. He is responsible for developing and implementing legislative, field organizing, and media strategies and campaigns in support of Food & Water Watch policy goals. Mr. Smith has experience in the climate justice movement, and organizes within several local, state and national formations. Mr. Smith will discuss the nexus between climate change, corporate exploitation, and equitable access to clean water in New Jersey, and share insights from the growing social movement for water, jobs and justice.  He can be reached at

sooMr. David Soo is the Executive Director of Paterson Friends of the Great Falls, Inc., a local charity that focuses on Historic Preservation and Environmental Protection. Mr. Soo has been the Chairman of the Paterson Zoning Board and Paterson Urban Enterprise Zone Board. Over a 25-year period Mr. Soo has challenged a number of construction projects that threatened the community with inappropriate development and the demolition of historic properties. One lawsuit resulted in the conservation of the 7½ acre historical ATP site which was later incorporated into the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Mr. Soo is currently contesting a proposal to construct two 2½ million gallon water tanks that would be built directly adjacent to Paterson’s National Park.

SwansonDr. Karen Swanson came to William Paterson University after working for more than a decade first as an environmental regulator at NJDEP and later as an environmental consultant, specializing in ground water quality issues for most of her career.   She left the private sector and joined the faculty of WPU in 1995.  Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science.  Her interests include environmental law and policy, aqueous geochemistry, and geoscience education. Dr. Swanson will be focusing on the environmental laws and policies as they relate to water.    

toccoDr. Jack Tocco is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at William Paterson University. Dr. Tocco's research focuses on Medical Anthropology, Global Health, HIV, Sexuality and Gender in Africa. He will discuss the role of ethnography in community initiatives to address water safety and pollution. 

Our Moderators  

BarryMr. Jan Barry is a veteran journalist retired from The Record (Bergen CountyNJ) where he was lead reporter on the “Toxic Legacy” investigative series, featured in the 2011 HBO documentary Mann v. Ford. Author of A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, he teaches environmental writing at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

CadeMs. Rae Cade is a senior at William Paterson University, majoring in Anthropology and Earth Science. During the last two years she directed her focus towards local water rights including the right to clean water and protecting the environment, as well as the cultural meanings and connections to water. Her hard work, research, and commitment to local communities has lead her to use her Anthropological and Environmental skills in civic engagement activities. She intends to pursue a Masters degree in Environmental Anthropology after graduation.