CWU News

CWU Alumnus Named US Bureau of Reclamation Resources Manager in California

Adam NickelsTwo-time Central Washington University alumnus Adam Nickels has been appointed as the new resources manager for the US Bureau of Reclamation California-Great Basin Region’s Division of Resources Management. Nickels graduated from CWU with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology in 1998 and a Master of Science in Resource Management in 2002.

“My father, cousins, uncles, and all of my brothers and sisters went to Central, focusing on education and teaching, which Central is classic for,” Nickels said. “But I didn’t take that route. At Green River Community College, I took some anthropology classes and humanities studies and was interested in what that could do for a career. By the time I finished my undergraduate degree at Central, I believed I had a very good background that could be parlayed into any kind of career.”

The choice was fine tuned when CWU professor Steve Hackenberger, anthropology and museum studies, helped Nickels secure a volunteer position with the US Army civilian branch.

“It involved learning about archaeology and anthropology from the federal government perspective,” Nickels explained. “From that point on, I knew my career was going to be with the federal government.”

While earning his master’s degree, Nickels began work in 2001 as an archeological technician for the National Park Service at Mount Rainier National Park.

“The greatest thing that happened was when I met [CWU anthropology and museum studies professor]  Dr. [Patrick] McCutcheon, who introduced me to Mount Rainier National Park, cultural-resources management, critical thinking, and an ecosystem and economics approach,” Nickels said. “It helped me get the job at the National Park Service and develop my federal career.”

He continued his work as an archeologist with the Bureau of Reclamation through 2014, first in the Montana Area Office, starting in 2003, and then in the California-Great Basin Region Region, beginning in 2006. Since 2015, Nickels has served as the deputy program manager for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which seeks to restore river flows and a self-sustaining spring-Chinook salmon run.

“When I was at Central, [emeritus CWU geography professor] Morris Uebelacker was running a study for the Bureau of Reclamation of how to restore the Yakima River flood plain,” he recalled. “I gained a lot of experience from working on that project that directly translates to my current position on the river restoration project on the San Joaquin River.”

In his new role, Nickels will use his expertise in areas from irrigation to Native American affairs, as well as geographic information systems (GIS), water rights, water contracting, realty, and operations and maintenance in northern California, southern Oregon,  and northwestern Nevada.

“The resources management division, which I will head, is a really diverse group,” he acknowledged. “I had enrolled in Central’s Management master’s program because it offered a diverse perspective on all aspects from cultural to natural resources, the law, and policy. It gave a good foundation to be able to work in real estate, GIS, Native American affairs, and for building my career. That program’s diversity in perspective has certainly shown through as I have moved through my career.”

Nickels assumes his new post on October 25.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Public Affairs, 509-899-0235,