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Tom Ptak

Tom Ptak

Assistant Professor


McClure Hall 405B



Mailing Address

Department of Geography
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3021
Moscow, ID 83844-3021

Professionally, I am trained as an interdisciplinary human-environment geographer who critically investigates socioeconomic, political and ecological phenomena shaped by contemporary energy policies and practices. My work is driven by a strong desire to help solve some of the worlds most pressing challenges linked to energy. These include--but are not limited to--energy transitions, access and exploitation of energy resources, water, food & energy security, plus human-induced climate change. Through my scholarship, I aim to help make the world a more equitable, less degraded, peaceful and sustainable place for all inhabitants.

Centered in the rapidly emerging sub-discipline of energy geography, I have a range of ongoing research projects. In no particular order, here is a list of my current research.

  • Energy chapter lead Idaho Climate Economic Assessment, led by the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.
  • Energy Pipeline for Idaho Partnership in Education (EPIPE). Workforce development initiative in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, Idaho National Lab, Idaho State University, College of Eastern Idaho, Boise State University.
  • Watershed scale spatial analysis of Willamette River Basin Reservoir System
  • Policy and planning analysis of U.S community solar development
  • Spatial dimensions of Climate Change skepticism, particularly it's relationship to household energy choices and behavior
  • New conceptual understandings of energy security
  • Small hydropower in China (ongoing nine-year project)
  • Spatial and temporal analysis of global small hydropower "boom"
  • Provincial scale analysis of energy driven transformation of Yunnan province
  • Regional analysis of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), particularly how energy is as a tool to further broader geopolitical & geoeconomic objectives

I serve on the executive board of the  Energy and Environment Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, and the scientific advisory committee for the CAES Energy Policy Institute, and play a leadership role in a network of scholars focused on small hydropower research.

Ptak, T., (2019) Towards an ethnography of small hydropower in China: Rural electrification, socioeconomic development and furtive hydroscapes, Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 48, pp. 116-130

Ptak, T., Nagel, A., Radil, S., Phayre. D., (2018) Rethinking Community: Analyzing the Landscape of Community Solar through the Community-Place Nexus, The Electricity Journal,

Ptak, T., (2017) Considering multiple Chinas in the shifting regional geopolitics of the Mekong river dams, Political Geography, Vol. 58, pp. 136-138

Idaho Climate Assessment Energy Chapter Lead, Energy Pipeline for Idaho Partnership in Education (EPIPE), Policy and planning analysis of U.S community solar development, spatial dimensions of Climate Change skepticism.

  • 2016 Recognition Award, Asian Geography Specialty Group Graduate Paper Competition, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
  • 2015 Best Panel Award, University of Oregon Graduate School Research Forum, Panel Organizer and Presenter, Water: Our Planets Most Valuable Resource
  • 2014 President’s Award for best PhD Student Paper, Association of Pacific Coast Geographers Annual Meeting, Tucson, Arizona


Physical Address:
McClure Hall 201

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3021
Moscow, ID 83844-3021

Phone: 208-885-6216


Web: Department of Geography