Karen Bareford, Ph.D. - Cahaba River Society


Karen Bareford, River Sustainability Director for Cahaba River SocietyKaren Bareford, Ph.D., joined the Cahaba River Society as the River Sustainability Director in 2023. She works to reduce pollution, erosion, and flooding impacts to the river, improve climate resilience, promote water equity, protect biodiversity, and increase healthy greenspaces and river access for all. She helps communities improve best practices in stormwater management, green infrastructure design, water policies, regulations, management, and compliance.

Karen has over 20 years of experience engaging partners and stakeholders across the US in planning for the protection and management of coastal and water resources. Her interdisciplinary background has allowed her to make long-term impacts in planning and natural resource management in Florida, Texas, Alabama, and nationwide. In addition, she has extensive experience working with diverse stakeholders and building effective collaborations. These efforts have involved collaboration with various levels of local, county, state, and national representatives, the public, site managers, the greater university enterprise, and others. Specifically, she has worked with leadership across the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Governor and Cabinet of Florida, County Commissioners in Texas, senior leaders across NOAA line offices, leaders from major universities, and local community leaders. In her roles with Sea Grant, she has documented expertise leading interagency coordination to provide critical information needed to support resource management, human health, and safety decisions. Her recent work provided opportunities to lead and implement cross-regional and cross-government initiatives, allowing her to hone the ability to translate and communicate scientific material in non-technical ways to inform complex environmental decisions.

She has amassed experience in federal administration, leadership, extension, partnership building, and collaboration, which she brings to this role.

Karen brings experience collaborating with various levels of local, county, state, and national representatives, the public, site managers, and other partners to solve complex environmental challenges. Her combination of experience and education enables her unique ability to work across organizational boundaries to serve the public better.

Karen received a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs and a Master of Science in Outdoor Recreation with an emphasis on environmental education and leadership, both from Indiana University. Her Ph.D. is in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University. Her experience designing and executing collaborative and stakeholder processes augments her educational qualifications. As an experienced social scientist, she has conducted research that incorporates community needs and synthesizes various information to inform accessible and inclusive outcomes. These skills contribute directly to the technical expertise required for this position and are critical to advancing the Cahaba River’s long-term sustainability.

Dr. Bareford’s experience demonstrates her ability to collaborate, build partnerships, problem-solve, and develop innovative solutions to complex challenges. Her background and passion for Alabama’s natural ecosystems and the communities that depend upon them will serve the Cahaba River Society and its “peopleshed” well.