As a college student, Bryan Tilt spent three years in South Korea and returned with a love for a new culture and its language. “I don’t know that I would have gotten into anthropology without that experience. It just opened up doors for me that I didn’t even know existed, let alone knew how to walk through,” he says.
He majored in Asian Studies at Utah State and focused further on environmental issues and values as a University of Washington graduate student. With its emerging environmental problems, China seemed like a logical place to study the tension between environment and economy at the grass roots. However, his first experience in the industrial city of Harbin in Manchuria didn’t go well. “I had so many doors slammed in my face, I couldn’t get the work done,” he remembers.
It took a phone call to his adviser in Seattle and a connection to a research colleague at the Sichuan Nationalities Research Institute in Chengdu to open the door in Futian. Within a few frenzied days, he was doing interviews in the village.
In 2012, Tilt and his family (OSU faculty research associate Jenna Tilt and their children Avery and Miriam) will return to China. With support from a Fulbright Scholarship, Bryan will conduct interviews in Yunnan Province to investigate how people balance hydropower and dams with values such as biodiversity, community preservation and sustainability.
Working with OSU faculty colleagues Desiree Tullos (Biological and Ecological Engineering) and Aaron Wolf (Geosciences), Tilt has contributed to a decision-making model for future dam construction. In the current work, they are focusing on the Mekong and Nu (Salween) rivers.