Casey Merkle is a nature-culture-sustainability scholar from the Rhode Island School of Design, writer, educator, and artist. Her research dives into watery landscapes, bridging human perception and our representations of space looking closely with others’ personal experiences. Casey has an MA in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies from RISD, and a BA in Biology from Lawrence University.

Graphic Design

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How do you define the watershed?

How do you define the watershed?

Individual representations of the Blackstone River watershed and their roles in collaborative watershed governance

By Casey Merkle

MA Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies Rhode Island School of Design

The original content and design of this book is © Casey Merkle, 2022.

Thesis Advisor: Bryce DuBois
Thesis Committee: Emily Vogler, Jesse Sayles

To download, visit RISD Fleet Library... coming soon.

Self-reported effects of the covid-19 pandemic on stewardship organizations and their activities in Southeast New England, USA

Self-reported effects of the covid-19 pandemic on stewardship organizations and their activities in Southeast New England, USA

Casey Merkle, Bryce DuBois*, Jesse S. Sayles, Lynn Carlson, H. Curt Spalding, Ben Myers and Shreya Kaipa

Liberal Arts Division, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, United States

ORISE Fellowship Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Center for Environmental Measurement and Modeling, Atlantic Coastal Environmental Sciences Division, Narragansett, RI, United States

Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence, RI, United States

Mapping the Woonasquatucket River

Summer 2021
Mapping the Woonasquatucket River

See it in action in a storymap by Tidal Resonance

This piece is a counter-cartographic example of mapping the Woonasquatucket River.

The backdrop is the foundational Layer for this map, representing wetness of the water seeping into the surrounding land. This map uses paper made from algae collected at four distinct sites along the Woonasquatucket River. The light blue thread shows the route of the Woonasquatucket River in 2021. In dark blue, is the river’s path in 1939. Along this stretch of the Woonasquatucket is the Centerdale Manor. This site is located at 2072 and 2074 North Providence. It was polluted with dioxin, a chemical compound that is a byproduct of industrial practices, during the 1940s and 1970s. Dioxin is a dangerous chemical known to cause cancer, hormone interference, chloracne, and other health effects. The EPA strongly advises against any recreational use of the Woonasquatucket due to high levels of dioxin.
Centerdale Manor is the source area for clean up of this EPA superfund site. To stay up to date with the progress of this EPA superfund site, visit


Spring 2021

Materials: watercolor, pigment, water, salt, graphite, paper
Word that are a part of my process:

aqua, aquamarine, algae, alive, asking, blue, beckon, break, breath, blot, bleed, brush, coursing, contain, capitalism, critique, class, chaos, calm, colonialism, construct, center, creature, drying, death, decolonize, dip, drip, dilute, darken, dropper, educational, ease, erase, enter, earth, find, flip, fresh, fish, framework, grapple, gap, gesture, gel, hold, heart, ink, joy, juxtapose, kinship, keep, key, love, look, layer, leaf, line, list, map, marking, making, marble, mash, melt, notice, neat, nature, note, open, offer, observe, ponder, press, pigment, projection, question, quick, running, rip, river, reduce, soak, seep, salt, subterannean, small, teal, teach, under, vector, water, wonder, youth

Counter-cartography in watery spaces

Spring 2022
Blackstone River watershed map

An example of counter-cartography in mapping the Blackstone River watershed. It moves away from traditional mapping techniques toward personal and grounded elements, like showing places of importance to the individual and wildlife.

Winter 2021
Canterbury Brook watershed map

This map represents the movements of subterannean water and the collection of toxic groundwater overtime in wetlands.