Sociology and Criminology


Brock Ternes, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology | University of North Carolina Wilmington
Office: Bear Hall, Room 123
Phone: 910-962-7420 | Email:



2016 Ph.D. Sociology, University of Kansas

2010 M.A. Sociology, University of Kansas

2008 B.S. Sociology, Emporia State University

Many of my academic plans investigate the demand for natural resources and the relevant structures and institutions that shape resource management within socio-ecological systems. I see modernity through the prism and distribution of infrastructure, and I aspire to understand how modern perceptions of nature have been shaped by the specific technological spaces of drinking water supplies. My doctoral research analyzed environmental awareness and watering routines among Kansas well owners, a key social group whose water conservation is pivotal to extending the High Plains aquifer. By establishing how hydrologic infrastructure organizes citizens’ relationships with water, I demonstrate how material assemblages have the potential to transform social, political, and environmental dispositions. My work contributes to the sociology of water use by advancing my ideas of groundwater citizenship and hydrologic habitus, which frame well owners as a distinct community defined by their stewardship of aquifers and prioritization of water policies. I find that water supplies contour the boundaries of citizenship, and even though well owners have not been closely studied in the social sciences, they represent a citizenry that manages natural resources with their daily routines. Through this research, I continue to identify the importance of water provision, which adds nuance to investigations of rural communities, health outcomes, social practices, policymaking, and resilience-building in the Anthropocene. Aquifers have stylized my perception of society for the past several years, and I look forward to assessing water supplies in greater detail via future projects.


Research Interests

Environmental sociology, statistics, research methods, sociological theory, the sociology of water usage, environmental policy, pro-environmental behaviors, citizenship, infrastructure, epidemiology, migration, and social problems   


Quantitative methods, survey design, structural equation modeling, planned missing data designs, multigroup/multilevel analyses, and content analysis


Recent Courses Taught 

Environmental Sociology

Evaluation, Methods and Policy

Individuals and Societies in a Global World

Methods of Social Research

Modern Social Problems

Sociological Data Analysis and Interpretation

Sociological Theory

Recent Articles

2020  Brock Ternes and Brian Donovan. “Hydrologic Habitus: Wells, Watering Practices, and Water Supply Infrastructure.” Nature + Culture 15(1):32-53. doi: 10.3167/nc.2020.150103.

  • Lead Article

2020 “Exploiting Shangri-La: Assessing the Tibetan Plateau’s Natural Resources and the Work of Karl Wittfogel.” Review of European Studies 12(1):1-11. doi: 10.5539/res.v12n1p1.

  • Lead Article

2020 “Who Owns Wells in Kansas? An Exploration of Rural Water Supply Reliance in the High Plains.” Great Plains Research 30(1):71-86.

2019  “Are Well Owners Unique Environmentalists? An Exploration of Rural Water Supply Infrastructure, Conservation Routines, and Moderation.” Sustainability 11, 4822. doi: 10.3390/su11184822.

2019  “Saving for a Dry Day: Investigating Well Ownership and Watering Practices during Droughts.” Environmental Sociology 5(1):93-107.

2018  “Groundwater Citizenship and Water Supply Awareness: Investigating Water-Related Infrastructure and Well Ownership.” Rural Sociology 83(2):347-77.