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Gretel Follingstad

Gretel Follingstad

Assistant Professor of Environment & Sustainability
She, Her, Hers, Ella
Kelley Hall 107


Ph.D., Geography, Planning & Design; Climate Change Resilience; University of Colorado, Denver, CO (2022)
M.S., Community & Regional Planning: Natural Resource Planning (Magna Cum Laude) University of New Mexico, (2010)
B.A., Business Administration, International Management and Latin American Studies, University of New Mexico


Gretel Follingstad has a Ph.D. in Geography Planning and Design at the University of Colorado, Denver. As an early adopter of resilience thinking, her professional praxis, scholarly research, and publications focus on the necessities and practicality of an equitable and resilience focused approach to natural resource and community health and sustainability. One of the key elements of her tenure as a professional resilience planner is an emphasis on linking natural resource sustainability with the community planning process, through land use tools. Gretel’s research focuses on building water resilience for drought prone, rapidly growing communities under the pressures of climate change. Gretel examines water resilience at three scales: individual water use determinants, spatial design and land use planning adaptations and collaborative policy solutions. Gretel has broad experience working with and for government agencies and private organizations in project management, public outreach, public speaking (and professional facilitation) and is a senior level GIS specialist. Gretel has specialized experience in water resource planning, watershed restoration and management, as well as land use and open space planning. In addition to her PhD, Gretel holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in International Management and Latin American Studies, a Masters degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and a Certificate in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

How did you discover Western?

My first discovery of Western was through a great friend who is an alumni, who showed me the campus and the beautiful Gunnison Valley.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

I have broad experience in resilience planning, and am adept in examining strategies for community resilience at various scales including: land use solutions for growth management and hazard mitigation; scalable collaborative policy solutions; municipal water management and efficiencies; geospatial analysis/modeling (GIS) of natural resources; drought mitigation, watershed restoration, and water demand forecast modeling for land use adaptations; open space and recreation planning.

I effectively created water demand forecasting model for projected growth of Western communities; this model was used for water demand management strategies for regional water resilience.

I co-authored the original framework and implementation of the Sonoran Institute’s Growing Water Smart program and I am training for Western communities to proactively manage water resources based on growing demand.

I am a highly skilled academic professor and my courses taught include Environmental Planning, Urban Sustainability, Natural Hazards and Climate Change Planning, Planning for Resilient Futures, and Resilience Management for Economic Development.

I have participated in multiple research initiatives for natural hazards assessment and planning for global communities vulnerable to climate change.

What most excites you about your field?

Being at that intersection of developing pathways and skills for resolving climate and social injustices and inspiring students to be a part of these solutions.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

The awe inspiring beauty, opportunities to experience and feel the importance of natural and wild places.

Courses Taught:

(University of Colorado Courses)
Introduction to Resilience Management
Planning for Resilient Futures
Environmental Planning
Urban Sustainability
Planning for Disasters, Hazards & Climate Change


  • May 2022- Integrating land use planning and water management in U.S. cities: A literature review. Journal of the American Water Resources Association; DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.13022
  • January 2022- Modeling Future Residential Outdoor Water Demand in the U,S West. Land Lines Magazine. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
  • October 2020- Case Study Report: Modeling Future Outdoor Water Demand in Aurora, CO; Babbitt Center for Land & Water (Lincoln Institute for Land Policy & the Water Research Foundation).
  • August 2020- Are We Protecting Our History? A Municipal-Scale Analysis of Historic Preservation, Flood Hazards, and Planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research. 1–14; Co-authored with Andrew Rumbach.
  • Fall 2019- ISSUES In Science and Technology-Book Review: A Tapestry of Values –An Introduction to Values in Science By Kevin C. Elliott.
  • November 2018- International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Urban Disasters Beyond the City: Environmental Risk in India’s Fast-Growing Towns and Villages. Co-authored with Andrew Rumbach.
  • March 2017- Growing Water Smart: The Water-Land Use Nexus: Training Guide. Sonoran Institute. ()
  • May 2015- Western Planner Magazine: Climate Change Resilience Planning.
  • March 2013- Western Planner Magazine: Climate Adaption Planning.
  • February 2010- Western Planner Magazine: Linking Natural & Social Systems with Community Planning & Development.

External Professional Affiliations:

  • Terra-Planning, LLC., Santa Fe, NM & Boulder, CO – Owner–Consultant, Community & Environmental Resilience Planning – www.terra-planning.com
  • University of Colorado, Boulder

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