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curt holder

Curt Holder

Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

B.A., Clark University
M.A., University of Georgia
Ph.D., Clark University

Curt Holder teaches courses in physical geography and human-environment relationships. Curt received his B.A. degree in geography from Clark University. After graduating from Clark, Curt developed an appreciation for the potential role of scientific knowledge in addressing community needs when he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala (1988-1990). Curt worked on reforestation, soil conservation, and watershed management projects in Peace Corps, and following a two-year service, Curt received a M.A. degree in geography from the University of Georgia. Curt returned to Clark University for a Ph.D. in geography. 

Curt works at the nexus of hydrology, biogeography, and human-environment interactions in tropical montane cloud forests of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. Results from his studies have contributed to the theory of vegetation influences on watershed management by addressing the significance of fog precipitation in hydrological models. His current research focuses on three topical areas, including vegetation-atmosphere processes in tropical montane cloud forests, foliar biogeography and ecology, and human influences on forest change in Guatemala. 

Curt is currently working on two major research projects. The first project was funded by the National Science Foundation and examines the significance of leaf water repellency, leaf optical properties, and photosynthesis of cloud forest and non-cloud forest species in order to expand existing hydrological and ecophysiological models for cloud forests. The objectives of this study are to define the spatial patterns of leaf water repellency between different habitats and to assess its importance in the overall water balance in cloud forests. With a clearer understanding of the interactive responses between leaf water repellency, gas exchange, and leaf optical properties among dominant species at a site and between sites, better models of forest hydrology processes can be formulated that incorporate leaf surface variables.

His second research emphasis examines how forest governance influences changes in land use and land cover change within thirty communally-managed forests in the Department of Chiquimula, Guatemala. The research objectives of this study are to examine changes in forest structure over a 30-year period, to examine if timber is being extracted at a sustainable rate, and to examine the relationships between forest governance and sustainable extraction of fuelwood and timber. Communal management of the majority of these forests is not established by forest committees or by regulations of the municipal government, but by customary rules in the villages that are norms that guide forest extraction. In particular, Curt is investigating the role that remittances from family members outside of Guatemala have on forest extraction and forest governance. 

As well as conducting extensive fieldwork on tropical ecosystems, Curt's research experience also includes investigations of temperate forests. Specifically, he has studied the ecology and biogeography of leaf persistency in pine forests in the southeastern United States. As a trained forest hydrologist and biogeographer, he relies on a multidisciplinary approach to address research questions that often requires a research team from various disciplines to understand relationships between social and physical processes. 

Curt welcomes working with students on research projects in Guatemala. He has already taken more than 30 students to Guatemala on research trips.

Recent publications

Holder, C.D. 2007. Leaf water repellency as an adaptation to tropical montane cloud forest environments. Biotropica 39(6): 767-770.

Holder, C.D. 2007. Leaf water repellency of species in Guatemala and Colorado (USA) and its significance to forest hydrology studies. Journal of Hydrology 336(1/2): 147-154.

Holder, C.D. 2006. Contested visions: technology transfer, water resources, and social capital in Chilasco, Guatemala. Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 4(3): 269-283.

Holder, C.D. 2006. The hydrological significance of cloud forests in the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala. Geoforum 37(1): 82-93.

Holder, C.D. 2004. Changes in structure and cover of a common property pine forest in Guatemala, 1954-1996. Environmental Conservation 31(1): 22-29.

Holder, C.D. 2004. Rainfall interception and fog precipitation in a tropical montane cloud forest of Guatemala. Forest Ecology and Management 190(2/3): 373-384.

Holder, C.D. 2003. Fog precipitation in a cloud forest of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala. Hydrological Processes 17(10): 2001-2010.

Holder, C.D. 2000. Geography of Pinus elliottii and Pinus palustris leaf life spans in the southeastern USA. Journal of Biogeography 27(2): 311-318.