Debora L. VanNijnatten

Professor, Political Science

(519) 884-0710 | Ext. 3841

[email protected]


Debora L. VanNijnatten is Professor in the Department of Political Science and North American Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research and publications have focused on transboundary environmental governance in North America, at the cross-border regional, bilateral (Canada-US and US-Mexico) and continental levels. Recent funded research has focused on the design and application of governance indicators for adaptive management in transboundary water basins and post-COVID green infrastructure approaches for Canada. She also has a continuing interest in Canadian climate policy, Canada-US environmental relations as well as multi-level governance strategies for sustainability in North America.

She is the author/editor of 5 books, including successive editions of Canadian Environmental Politics and Policy (Oxford 2016, 2009, 2002), Environmental Policy in North America: Approaches, Capacity and the Management of Transboundary Issues (UTP 2014, with Robert Healy and Marcela López Vallejo) and Climate Change Policy in North America: Designing Integration in a Regional System (UTP 2013, with Neil Craik and Isabel Studer). In addition, she co-edited a special issue of International Journal of Water Governance (with Kate Bryk-Friedman) entitled: “The Role of Institutions and Networks in Building Transboundary Governance Capacity in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Basin: Insights and Lessons for Global Water Governance”. She has published 50 articles and book chapters environmental policy and governance.

As a Research Partner with the Great Lakes Policy Research Network (GLPRN), and in her current SSHRC project (2017-2022) with Carolyn Johns of Ryerson University, she is exploring the prospects for adaptive transboundary governance in the Great Lakes Basin and Rio Grande River Basin. This research involves applying and testing the OECD’s water governance indicators, as well as developing a new set of governance indicators for adaptive transboundary water governance for application at the transboundary, national and subnational scales. The project is particularly focused on exploring the significance of knowledge and engagement indicators for improving the adaptability of water governance and policy outcomes.
She has been a Visiting Fulbright Chair at Duke University, Visiting Associate Professor in the School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan, and an Academic Advisor for the “Emergence of Cross-Border Regions” research project carried out by the Policy research Initiative, Government of Canada.


  • Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Merit Award 2017
  • Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Merit Award 2015

Select Publications

  • Debora VanNijnatten and Carolyn Johns (2020), “Assessing Proximity to the Desired End State in Complex Water Systems: Adaptive Governance in the Great Lakes and Rio Grande Transboundary Basins” Environmental Science & Policy Vol 114 (December), pp.194-203.
  • Debora VanNijnatten and Carolyn Johns (2020), “Environmental vs. Territorial Borders: Canada-U.S. Cooperation on Environmental Issues and the Resilience of Transboundary Governance” for Geoffrey Hale and Greg Anderson, eds., Navigating a Changing World: Canada’s International Policies in an Era of Political and Economic Uncertainty. University of Toronto Press.
  • Debora VanNijnatten and Carolyn Johns (2020) “The IJC and the Evolution of Environmental and Water Governance in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin: Accountability, Progress Reporting and Measuring Performance under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement” in Murray Clamen and Daniel Macfarlane (eds), The First Century of the International Joint Commission. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.
  • Debora VanNijnatten and Eduard del Buey (in print), “Canada’s International Climate and Environmental Policy: Good Intentions, Staying the Course and the Art of the Work-Around” for R. Murray and P. Gecelovsky, eds. Canada’s Role in the Evolving World Order. Canada and International Affairs Series.
  • Debora L. VanNijnatten (2018), “Canada’s International Environmental Policy: Trudeau’s Trifecta of Challenges” in Philippe Lagasse and Norman Hillmer, eds. Canada Among Nations 2017. Centre for International Governance Innovation and Norman Patterson School of International Affairs.
  • Carolyn Johns, Adam Thorn and Debora VanNijnatten (2018), “”Environmental Regime Effectiveness and the North American Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement” International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 1 (January).


  • Ph.D. Comparative Public Policy, Queen’s University at Kingston, 1996
  • M.A. Political Science, Queen’s University at Kingston, 1991
  • B.A. Canadian and Western European Community Studies
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