|Harry Fischer graduated from college with a degree in studio art (with an emphasis on painting) in 2006. During a four-month trip across India in 2007, he discovered his intense interest in development and environmental issues in agrarian systems, particularly in the Himalayas. In 2008 Harry enrolled in a Master's program of geography at the University of Illinois under the guidance of Dr. Ashwini Chhatre. His Master's thesis, completed in 2010, focuses on the intersection between state and village-level efforts to promote nature conservation in the Himalayan region. He is now a Ph.D. student in the same department, and is planning to undertake his dissertation research in Himachal Pradesh on the changing nature of water management in the context of global climate change, a topic that joins his interests in the basic welfare of agrarian communities with broader environmental concerns. In addition, he has been involved in several ongoing collaborative research projects, including: building a global database on climate change adaptation and developing a methodology to analyze vulnerability of rural communities to climate change. Mr. Fischer has held a FLAS Fellowship for the study of Hindi for 2009-10 and 2010-11, and has returned to India twice during this period to practice his language skills. He co-authored "Biodiversity conservation and livelihoods in human-dominated resource-governance regimes: Forest commons in South Asia", published in Biological Conservation in 2010. He has also made several conference presentations in the last two years. In 2010, he received a grant from the Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois to study climate change adaptation in the Himalayan region. He was a Human Dimensions of Environmental Systems Fellow at the University of Illinois for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years.
Climate change and increasing water demand are straining India's water systems beyond their capacity, generating broad changes in water management and distribution across the country. The title of his research is "Democracy and Equity in Water Access in the Indian Himalayas." His research will explore the role of three factors – mass media, NGOs, and local democratic institutions – in shaping communities' responses to water stresses in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh. He hypothesizes that these three factors will enable a broad cross-section of citizens to articulate their needs, leading to more equitable water governance outcomes.