​​​​​​​​​The Water and Justice Program promotes the wise and sustainable use of water resources locally, nationally, and globally through research, education and policy development. The program complements the law school's outstanding faculty and diverse course offerings in the field of water law and policy. The program is administered by VLS's Environmental Law Center under the direction of Professors Jack Tuholske and John Echeverria. Program staff includes a research fellow and student research associates who contribute to reports, conference presentations, legal analyses, and law review articles to support the program's work. Faculty, staff and students meet regularly to discuss their research and learn about cutting-edge litigation and policy initiatives in the world of water law.

Based on a grant from the HKH Foundation, work will include a detailed examination of water governance for the Great Lakes region, including the public trust doctrine, water commons principles, statutory regimes that regulate water, international and Native American treaty rights that affect the Great Lakes, evolution of the common law, and other legal constraints on the use and governance of water. Additional work will focus on other areas of the public trust, Western water law, and government recognition and reservation of public rights in water.

The Water and Justice Program has appointed Chelsea Auerbach MELP '11, as a full time research fellow. She previously worked on water law and policy issues in Australia under a Fulbright Fellowship and with American Rivers, the nation's leading river conservation group. The Research Associates for 2014-2015 are Ian Altendorfer, Libby Bowker, Caroline Casey, Kyle Harris,Kaitlin Hayes, Laura Patten, David Scott, and Emily Wilmott.

 To access our Public Trust Doctrine Resource Center, with its detailed compilation of public trust law review articles, cases, and other other information, please click here​.

Research Associates


JD '15


​​Ian’s love for paddling and swimming has propelled his career in water law. Ian was raised in the Garden State and he is now a resident of the Green Mountain State. In 2011, Ian graduated from the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont with a degree in Natural Resources: Resource Management. After taking some time off to study bats at Mammoth Cave National Park, Ian returned to the great state of Vermont to begin his legal career in Vermont Law School. 
Currently, Ian is a third year JD student and he recently completed an internship at Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General and the Department of the Environment. There, he worked on issues related to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and Maryland’s state revolving fund for wastewater treatment facilities. 
His passion lies at the nexus of water resource management and land use planning. In his view, the law is a critical tool to actively managing land and water resources. With proper management, opportunities can emerge to help improve both the health of the environment and our communities. After graduation, Ian hopes to work for a state government to pursue his passion and seize these opportunities.​


Libby Bowker

Libby Bowker, a native of Harvard, Massachusetts, is a third year JD/Master Environmental Law and Policy student, Senior Notes Editor of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, and pursuing both Water Law and Land Use Certificates at Vermont Law School.
Prior to her arrival at Vermont Law School, Libby received her BA from the University of Vermont, collected plastic samples in the Northeast Pacific Garbage Patch, worked on the Pacific Crest Trail, and taught outdoor education at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Libby enjoys backpacking, mountaineering, reading, and cooking.



Caroline Casey
JD '15

Caroline grew up in Connecticut on the Long Island Sound, developing an appreciation for coastal waters early in life.  She spent time each summer on a barrier island off the coast of Massachusetts, seeing the first-hand effects of coastal erosion and over-development of the shoreline.  She earned a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from Villanova University, where she began formally studying the science of clean water.  She wrote her thesis on the effects of agricultural and residential pollutants, as well as storm events, in the Brandywine Creek near Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  During her summers in college, Caroline interned with a small non-profit organization in Connecticut, collecting water samples from local streams and testing them for pollutants, as well as coliform and E. coli bacteria.  Caroline is particularly interested in the effects of land use on water quality, from agricultural practices in rural areas to city stormwater management in densely populated areas.

Kyle Harris

Kyle Harris grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Never too far from water, Kyle gained an affinity for sailing at a young age.  His ability in the sport afforded him the opportunity to travel outside the Chesapeake Bay and around the country. Although his focus was primarily on winning the next race, he started to notice how different communities interacted with, and treated their watersheds.  As his interests in water, people and the environment began to fuse, he attended the College of Charleston in South Carolina and was a member of the varsity sailing team before completing a B.A. in History with a minor in Classical Civilizations, focusing on various civilizations' relationships with water.  In addition to working with various waterkeepers in South Carolina and Maryland, this last summer he clerked in the Maryland Office of the Attorney General for the Department of Natural Resources.  His work at MOAG-DNR this summer included work on conservation easements, fisheries violations and extensive legal research and analysis on natural resource issues. Kyle is currently a 3L/MELP student pursuing a water certificate at Vermont Law School, expecting to graduate in May 2015.  He enjoys live music, snowboarding, downhill mountain biking, and all things water.


Kaitlin Hayes
MELP '15

Kaitlin is a native Vermonter that enjoys everything this beautiful state has to offer from gorgeous water bodies, to lovely mountains, to sweet, sweet maple syrup. She came to Vermont Law School after completing a Master’s of Science in Environmental Science and Engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. She spends her free time traveling the country, hiking, skiing, skating, and thriving off the land. Her goal is to complete her Masters of Science in Environmental Law and Policy at VLS and move west to aid in work with water rights and water quality issues.​



Laura PatteN
MELP '15

Laura Patten is a Master of Environmental Law and Policy candidate at Vermont Law School. Originally from San Francisco, California, Laura spent much of her time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, cultivating a passion for the environment. Laura graduated with a B.A. in Economics from Oberlin College in 2009, with a focus on water resource economics. After graduating, Laura worked for the North Carolina Forest Service in 2009 and the National Park Service in Yosemite National Park from 2010-2014, working primarily with park resource management records. Laura is passionate about water law and policy and plans to return to the west to work on water management issues.​


David Scott
JD '15

David Scott is a third year student at Vermont Law School studying environmental and land use law. A native of Long Island, David was inspired to pursue a career focusing on environmental issues. David attended the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where he received a B.S. in Environmental Science focusing on Watershed Science. David's passion for water resources led him to spend a summer in Alaska researching sockeye salmon. While David thoroughly loved the science he learned through his undergraduate degree, he concluded that the best way to help the environment would be to combine his scientific knowledge with a legal degree. This led him to attend Vermont Law School. David hopes to build upon this education, and the practical experiences he gained as a Law Clerk for both a boutique environmental and land use law firm and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Department of Natural Resources to become a successful environmental lawyer. 


Emily Wilmott
JD '15

Emily Wilmott is a New Jersey native who grew up along the banks of the Hudson River near Albany, New York. The juxtaposition of the river’s ecological degradation with that of New York’s capitol buildings always presented somewhat of an environmental paradox. The very institutions that were able to protect such a vital resource sat idly by as contaminated waters continued to be polluted. This grave injustice sparked Emily’s interest in pursuing an education in environmental policy. Emily earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Policy Planning and Law with a minor in Environmental Writing and Rhetoric from SUNY’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry. While at SUNY –ESF, Emily worked on native species restoration projects abating groundwater contamination from Onondaga Lake’s Superfund site. She also worked as the vice-president of SUNY-ESF’s Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders to build a community water supply project for a rural village in Honduras. Emily is currently a third-year law student pursuing a Water Law Certificate at Vermont Law School and is expected to graduate in May of 2015. In addition to her interest in environmental justice, Emily enjoys hiking, skiing and being outdoors.​