Anthropology Department Directory


Maryann R. Cairns

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. 2014 University of South Florida
Heroy Hall 402
Cairns, Maryann

  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Environmental Health
  • Water, Sanitation, and Wastewater Treatment
  • Infrastructure Studies
  • Political Ecology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Interdisciplinary Research (Biology, Engineering)
  • Human-centered Design
  • Human Rights
  • Mixed Methods
  • Citizen Science and Open Source Data Collection
  • Latin America & the Caribbean
  • Eastern Europe

Recent Happenings

Dr. Cairns is PI on a recently awarded grant through the National Science Foundation Coastal SEES Program.  The project is focused on transdisciplinary study of wastewater pollution and human health risk in a coastal tourism area of Costa Rica.  Cairns also was recently awarded an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship hosted at the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development National Exposure Research Laboratory in Washington, DC (2015-2017).   

Courses Fall 2017

ANTH 3319: Human Ecology


Maryann Cairns is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University (beginning August 2017).  Dr. Cairns’ research is focused at the intersection of environment, infrastructure, and health.  Her work examines socio-ecological interactions in polluted waterscapes, giving specific attention to the sustainability and efficacy of infrastructure development.  Cairns has completed projects within these theme areas in Latin America & the Caribbean, the Western Balkans, and the United States.  Her most recent work in Costa Rica focuses on placing ethnographic information at the forefront of mathematical modeling and mixed-methods research poised to understand the impact of wastewater on enviro-social spaces and human health.  Before coming to SMU, Cairns was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow hosted at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and was a Postdoctoral scholar at Northeastern University’s Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute.  Cairns is a Board member for the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology & Environment Society (A&E). 

Selected Publications

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

In Press Maryann R. Cairns, Cassandra Workman, and Indrakshi Tandon. “Gender mainstreaming and water development projects: analyzing unexpected enviro-social impacts in Bolivia, India, and Lesotho.” Gender, Place & Culture.

2017 Maryann R. Cairns, Clayton Cox, Jose Zambrana, Joseph Flotemersch, Alexis Lan, Anna Phillips, Gordana Kozhuharova, Mihallaq Qirjo, Marta Szgeti Bonifert, and Lek Kadeli.  “Building multi-country collaboration on watershed management: Lessons on linking environment and public health from the Western Balkans.” Reviews on Environmental Health, 32(1-2): 15-22

2016 Matthew Verbyla, Erin Symonds, Ram Kafle, Maryann R. Cairns, Mercedes Iriarte, Alvaro Mercado, Olver Coronado, Mya Breitbart, Carmen Ledo, and James Mihelcic. “Managing microbial risks from indirect wastewater reuse for irrigation in urbanizing watersheds.” Environmental Science & Technology, 50(13): 6803-6813.

2016 Wells, Christian, Rebecca Zarger, Linda Whiteford, James R. Mihelcic, Eric S. Koenig, and Maryann R. Cairns “The Impacts of Tourism Development on Perceptions of Wastewater management on the Placencia Peninsula” Journal of Cleaner Production, 111(B):430-441.  

2015 Matthew Verbyla, Maryann R. Cairns, Paola A. Gonzalez, Linda M. Whiteford, James R. Mihelcic. “Emerging challenges for pathogen control and resource recovery in natural wastewater treatment systems.”  WIREs Water 2(6): 701-714. 

Book Chapters

2016 Whiteford, Linda, Maryann R. Cairns, Rebecca Zarger, and Gina Larsen.  “Water,Environment, and Health: The Political Ecology of Water.”  In Merrill Singer, ed. A Companion to Environmental Health: Anthropological Perspectives. Wiley Blackwell.

Memberships and Affiliations
American Anthropological Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Anthropology and Environment Society
Society for Medical Anthropology