Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology Dr. Lauren Hallett joined the University of Oregon faculty in the Fall of 2017. Dr. Hallett is a plant community ecologist whose research spans a variety of ecosystems (including woodlands, serpentine grasslands, working rangelands, and alpine). Her research themes include community assembly, species coexistence, functional traits, ecosystem stability and resilience theory.
The Hallett lab aims to produce “usable” science to improve ecosystem management. This is achieved through a combination of long-term data analysis, population modeling, and field experiments. Her recent publications include journal articles in Ecology, BioScience, Ecological Restoration and the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Mitchell’s research focuses on understanding international environmental treaties and which factors make some treaties more “effective” than others in getting countries to practice environmental protection. His interests include both researching the minutiae of specific treaties and how they are designed and implemented, as well as broader patterns and data on efficacy that emerge from examining hundreds of environmental treaties and protocols that different countries have signed. His inspiration for the work stems from an awareness of the environmental harm that humankind has historically wrought at the personal, local, national, and international level and the sustaining hope that providing his students with proper research skills might contribute to mitigating human-caused environmental damage in future.
For Mitchell, there is an indelible link between research and teaching. As he describes it, reading the works of other researchers broadens his understanding of issues related to treaties, and conducting his own research requires “active, careful, and rigorous thinking about these issues”. But, effective teaching requires identifying ways to communicate his own knowledge clearly and succinctly, which in turn deepens his own understanding of the topic. Thus, research and teaching are part of an “iterative” and mutually reinforcing process.
However, one of best parts about serving this dual role is the ability to bring students into the research process. Here, Mitchell puts it best himself:
“One of the great pleasures of being a faculty member who cares about teaching and research comes from inviting students to do research with me. Over 25 years of teaching at UO, I have invited over 75 undergraduate and graduate students to help me build a database of all international environmental agreements. Those students have helped create a database that now provides the most comprehensive list of international environmental treaties in the world. The most rewarding part of involving students in my research, however, has been the deep friendships that develop through the mentoring process. Students I have worked with have gone on to excellent graduate schools and/or positions in government, nongovernmental organizations, and universities. These students, and my close relationships with them, inspire me by their extraordinary commitment to helping protect the environment that we live in and are a part of.”
If you are interested in learning more about Mitchell’s work, links to his video lectures can be found here; or read his book International Politics and the Environment (Sage, 2010).
For more information about international environmental treaties, visit the International Environmental Agreements Database Project.
“Solving puzzles as part of an interdisciplinary team has been a consistent source inspiration for me,” says Lucas Silva. “The transdisciplinary collaborative spirit observed through campus, and particularly salient in my home departments (ENVS & Geography), is the single most important factor that drew me to UO.” Indeed, Silva exemplifies this spirit of interdisciplinarity through his work and contributions to academia. (more…)
“I was drawn to Environmental Studies by my love for the many landscapes that have cradled me throughout my life, a love that turns to motivated rage when I reflect on the (more…)
Climate change has traditionally been considered as an issue of the physical sciences, but a team of UO scholars have just turned that idea inside-out. (more…)
Initially Justin Culman was hesitant to become an Environmental Science major. The amount of credits required seemed daunting, but once he realized he could manage a four-year plan with Environmental Sciences and a double major in Geography, he was sold on switching into the program. (more…)
Keyyana Blount has always loved estuaries. Growing up in southern Maryland, her primary education began with the basic ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. During her time at Salisbury University, she completed an undergraduate research internship with the EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division laboratory in Narragansett, RI on the climate change effects on salt marsh plants. “During this internship,” she says, “I had the privilege of spending many summer days in the beautiful salt marshes of New England. In the field, I realized how dynamic these ecosystems were, and also how vulnerable they may be to climate change.” These experiences encouraged Keyyana to study the potential effects of climate change on coastal wetland ecosystems, and to find ways to protect and preserve them. (more…)
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
The University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program is seeking an exceptional scholar in environmental science with a strong research program and a commitment to excellence in teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level for a full time (1.0 FTE) position as a tenure-track assistant professor with a 9 month appointment. Desired start date: Fall 2016. (more…)
Mark Carey, Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies and Associate Dean of the Robert D. Clark Honors College is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award presented by the Division of Undergraduate Studies and All Campus Advising. Please join the Environmental Studies Program in congratulating Mark.
Learn more about Mark Carey here.
The Environmental Studies Program is very excited to announce that our own faculty member, Katie Lynch, has been invited to join the Oregon Environmental Literacy Program Council. Lynch is currently the co-director of the Environmental Leadership Program, Environmental Education Instructor, and undergraduate advisor to Environmental Studies students. The mission of the Council is to facilitate the implementation of the Environmental Literacy Plan by “creating thoughtful connections with the natural world through education and engagement.” The Council will be responsible for encouraging educational agencies and public schools to participate in environmental education programs. The plan operates in tandem with the “No Oregon Child Left Inside Act,” a bill signed into law in 2009 that encourages students from kindergarten to college to have hands-on learning experiences in Oregon biomes. (more…)
Morgan E. Peach is a recent graduate of the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Master’s Program. While at the UO, his research was primarily concerned with the relationships between soil systems and the built environment and their carbon sequestration potential.
Of his work, Peach stresses that “ecological and biogeochemical dynamics are [constantly] at work…in our everyday environment. Nature is ‘in here,’ in the city or the home, not just ‘out there.’” The disproportionate effect humans have on their environments can be harnessed “through design informed by environmental science” by allowing us to “choose the degree to which our towns, cities, and managed landscapes may function as regenerative, remediating” parts of our environment. These interests are what originally drew Peach to the ENVS graduate program, as it allowed him opportunities to explore concepts in biology as well as landscape architecture.
Upon graduation he joined the Sterling College faculty in Vermont as a biology instructor, and the Red House INC., Fine Homebuilding and Historic Restoration team as a woodworker. Of his career choices he says, “as a carpenter I shape wood into useful forms; as a professor in the Sterling Biology classroom, I discuss the structure, function, and ecology of wood, all of which leads to its prominent place in building systems. There is a fulfilling correspondence between [the two].”
The UO ENVS program has particularly empowered him as a teacher, by providing unique teaching opportunities (namely the ENVS 411 program). The ability to work alongside the “many talented and passionate educators” within ENVS, he says, has given him a plethora of “pedagogical tips and tricks” that he continues to use in the classroom. He has also been inspired by the hands-on educational opportunities offered by the ENVS Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) and Classroom Community Connections (CCC), and regularly seeks to get his students outside of the classroom so they can draw connections between course content and their environment.
This summer Peach will be continuing his own interdisciplinary education at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH as an Earth, Ecosystem, and Ecological Science PhD student. Peach firmly believes in the benefits of the interdisciplinary education offered by the UO ENVS program, as it helps him “connect seemingly disparate dots, and in doing so draw closer to the imaginative, innovative solutions required in the face of unprecedented environmental and social challenges confronting the 21st-century human community.”
Started by ENVS alum Raj Vable, the Eugene tea company Young Mountain Tea is a tea company with a social mission. Currently they are working with Himalayan farmers to grow new Indian tea ad are seeing $24,000 through crowdfunding to build the new sustainable tea region.
Young Mountain Tea, based in Eugene, Oregon, is partnering with farmers in the Indian Himalayas to grow the first tea that will lay the foundation for a new tea region. The partnership is turning to Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding platform, to raise the funds to create this tea.
The 30-day, $24,000 fundraising campaign starts February 17, 2015.
The project was inspired by Young Mountain Tea Founder Raj Vable’s experience working in the remote Kumaon region in the foothills of the Himalayas. As a graduate student at the University of Oregon, he started working with a Himalayan non-profit named Avani that creates rural livelihoods.
In 2013, he returned to the region on a Fulbright Fellowship and struck a deal with Avani – if they would grow tea, he would buy it. Later that year he returned to the United States, teamed up with friends also involved in social entrepreneurship and formed Young Mountain Tea.
“We named our company after the rising Himalayas, a mountain range that is still going up as the Indian subcontinent slams into Asia,” Vable noted.
After planting their first acre of tea saplings last year, this project will raise the funds to harvest, process and deliver the first tea. They are processing it as a white tea called white peony, traditionally known as Bai Mudan.
Backers of the projects will:
- Be the first to drink a new white tea hand made in small batches, using traditional techniques and the highest quality leaves.
- Create dignified rural livelihoods for remote mountain communities in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayas.
- Increase the resilience of mountain ecosystems by supporting organic permaculture that intercrops tea with other mountainous crops to restore biodiversity, strengthen native soils, and prevent landslides.
Backer rewards range from a $15 pouch of this new tea to a $2,500 authentic Indian Tea Pilgrimage, including spending time in the new tea region with Vable and the team.
To learn more, check out the Young Mountain Tea website.
Many students entering the University of Oregon think of Environmental Studies as a potential major from the day they arrive, but Adrian Robins was not one of them. He initially planned on studying psychology, so when he and a friend signed up for an introduction to environmental humanities, it was as a freshman year elective. “I wasn’t expecting what happened,” Adrian remarks. “I had taken a class in environmental science in high school, but reading people like Emerson and Leopold in ENVS 203, and learning about [organizations dedicated to food sovereignty], something about that woke me up and made me want to do more with my life.”
Adrian has since taken the opportunity to not only continue his classroom studies in the field of environmental studies, but to actually visit the field. He travelled to India for a study abroad program, where he learned from subsistence farmers. “I hadn’t really thought about alternate ways of dealing with food before because I’d never had the chance to see subsistence (plus it’s easy to ignore when you go to the supermarket for everything), but there are communities where the crop is everything, and control of that crop is critical.” This perspective has led him to a devoted interest in food sovereignty and the fight to protect it—including some time after his study abroad program with Navdanya, one of the organizations he first heard of in ENVS 203.
Food sovereignty and the importance of crop diversity has also followed Adrian into his thesis work. He is now a senior, graduating in June, and is in the process of gathering information about local seed saving networks. He is interested in the hows and whys that influence which seeds farmers choose to save. A number of crop varieties, he explains “are extinct or going extinct, and it’s a form of biodiversity that I think people don’t really pay attention to. But we’re heading to big changes environmentally, and the only way to ensure that we have food in the future is to have a diverse number of crops that can potentially survive.” Although Adrian initially planned for an environmental studies major, this focus on the applications of ecology to agriculture has led him to pursue a major in environmental science, with a minor in biology.
Many students have a similarly windy path through their college experience, and Adrian enjoys helping them out: he works currently as an Ecopeer, a position he has held for a year an a half, where he has the chance to advise undergraduate peers about the Environmental Studies Program. “It’s a pretty complicate major because we’re so interdisciplinary and it’s a big program, but I think my brain just works well with scheduling and organizing. Plus, I’ve liked my work because I’ve made a lot of connections to my peers in ENVS.”
Now that his undergraduate schedule is mostly set, what is Adrian planning for his own future? It’s a bit early to decide, but he’s considering agriculture-oriented positions with the Peace Corps or—perhaps—applying for a Fulbright scholarship to go back to India. Stop by the main ENVS office to chat and learn more!
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
Ezra Markowitz, who graduated from the University of Oregon with a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, Studies & Policy, joined the faculty of UMass Amherst this fall as an Assistant Professor, and is completing his first course, entitled “Environmental Decision-Making.”
Dr. Markowitz has always been interested in both psychology and environmental issues, although it wasn’t always clear how to merge them. He entered his undergraduate studies at Vassar College knowing that he wanted to major in psychology, and quickly became active within the school’s student environmental group. However, Markowitz explains that “they didn’t immediately seem to mesh. It wasn’t until my third year that my advisor in psychology told me ‘you know, you can combine those two interests of yours.’”
By the time he began looking for graduate schools he knew he wanted to study sustainability and decision-making, but “it wasn’t really clear how to do that in graduate school because there weren’t many programs available on the East coast. It ends up that the University of Oregon had what I was looking for, so it won out.” In Markowitz’s mind, Environmental Studies’ resources worked well with his professional goals because he was focused in his interests: “I get a lot of prospective graduate students looking at the program, and what I tell them is that it’s a really great place for people who have a good sense of what they want to study. Which is not everybody. But for me, the U of O gave me that support to explore and figure out on my own what had already been done in this new field, and what needed to be done.”
This interdisciplinary training, in which Markowitz drew from multiple departments to round out his education, also prepared him for his experiences after graduating. After defending his dissertation, he spent a year as a postdoctoral research associate with Princeton University’s Research Community on Communicating Uncertainty, where he worked with a group of political scientists, climate scientists, philosophers, and economists on the question of how to communicate scientific uncertainty regarding environmental change problems, both to policy-makers and the public. “It was a perfect extension of being at the U of O, he recounts, “because it was an incredible multi-disciplinary group. We certainly had challenges in terms of how to all talk and work together, but it was exciting. I spent the year running studies and finding that contrary to popular belief, you can actually increase people’s trust in climate scientists and in science more generally by being more open about the uncertainties that exist.”
Markowitz did get the chance to study among peers, though, when in 2013 he was invited to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. “For the first time in my life I was around people who do pretty much what I do. Everybody was a behavioral scientist doing environmental stuff, which was cool.” The group does much of its work on individuals’ decision-making under uncertainty, so “it was a nice flow from my work at Princeton.”
His position at Columbia University could have lasted for three years, but Markowitz was browsing faculty job postings and noticed one advertised by UMass Amherst “for something like human decision-making in environmental conservation. So I figured it was a pretty good fit.” It was: after a lengthy interview process, Markowitz found himself with a tenure-track position in a location that he is excited to explore. “I hadn’t applied to many jobs,” he admits, “but this seemed right for me. It’s in a place that reminds me a lot of the Willamette Valley in terms of politics and the physical layout of the valley around the river, with little mountains all around. I really did enjoy my time in Oregon.”
At UMass, Markowitz expects to keep his steady focus on how to blend research with practical application. Not only will he continue to offer consulting to policy groups outside of academia, he remains dedicated to investigations that support smart activism. “I don’t necessarily have the tools to put my findings into practice, but my goal is always for the research that I’m doing to be both practical and applicable. I want to help inform the work that’s happening on the ground.”
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
ReNews, the newsletter of the Environmental Studies Program, was established in 2013 when faculty, staff, and graduate students decided to separate out the two main functions of the program’s journal, The Ecotone: that of a journal and that of a newsletter. While initially a short bulletin, The Ecotone has matured into a journal that serves as a space for interdisciplinary academic dialogue and creative expression. ReNews was created to provide an annual report to alumni, donors, prospective students, and general supporters and friends about the Environmental Studies Program, people, and accomplishments.
To view ReNews, please click here for an easy-to-read online magazine format.
The 2014 issue of The Ecotone has arrived! The Ecotone is the journal of the Environmental Studies Program and is created by graduate students at the University of Oregon. It provides a venue for communication and exchange within and beyond the Environmental Studies Program among undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and facilitates cross-campus dialogue between disciplines and departments.
The Environmental Studies Program is excited to welcome Sarah Wald as our first joint hire with the department of English. She is set to begin teaching in both departments this fall, and is also excited to engage with the new ENVS-affiliated Food Studies Specialization.
Dr. Wald’s interest in environmental studies began when she herself was an undergraduate, during the global justice protests against the WTO in Seattle in 1999. The rhetoric of the movement intrigued her: “‘Teamsters and Turtles, together at last,’ was one of the slogans,” she recalls. “I wanted to know why it was so strange to imagine environmentalists and labor activists working together. Why weren’t mainstream environmentalists more engaged with the issues facing working people and people of color?” This sort of questioning triggered her involvement in the field, and she also believes that it sustains her current research, which strives to link Race and Ethnic Studies with environmental cultural studies.
Both inform a manuscript she is currently completing, entitled ‘To the Farmer in all of us’: Race, Nature, and Citizenship in Representations of Californian Farmers and Farmworkers. In it Wald mines newspaper articles, pamphlets, novels, and short stories for twentieth and twenty-first century Asian American and Latina/o voices, asking the questions: what have been the representations of Californian agricultural laborers, how do cultural understandings of nature “shape the racial gate-keeping of the nation,” and “what do these works tell us about the ways we imagine nature and landscape in relation to nation and the ways we racialize that relationship?”
Wald is excited about the opportunity to continue this scholarship at the University of Oregon, and as a professor affiliated with the Food Studies Specialization, she is interested in how a focus on producers of food, rather than consumers, might help develop the sustainable food movement. “Documentaries like Food, Inc.,” she explains, “tell us that we can vote with our dollars. Promoting consumer citizenship has all sorts of ideological consequences that we don’t often consider, though. Emphasizing consumption as the primary way to exercise political power privileges those with more money. If you vote with your dollar, those with the most dollars have the most votes. It also suggests that privatization (rather than federal regulation) is the solution to environmental ills, worker exploitation, and food safety.”
As a result, Wald wants to find a way to prioritize producers’ voices, and she believes that the UO’s focus on collaborative engagement with the food communities of Eugene and Springfield is a valuable tool for getting there. Not only do such partnerships pair activism with academics, they prompt important questions: do we best reduce pesticides by buying organic, or by increasing regulation? What issues are important to consumers, and are they different than those important to producers? Which voices are currently prioritized? “There’s a lot of inspiring scholarship and teaching happening in the program around issues of race and ethnicity and environmental justice,” Wald explains. She expects that this focus meshed with community engagement can be a powerful mix.
Such perspectives will inform her teaching next year, including a graduate course entitled Ecocritical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity and Food Matters. In the mean time, she is currently settling in to the city and is looking for recommendations for hiking and biking close to town. Please join us in welcoming her to Eugene!
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
ENVS major Francesca Varela hasn’t even graduated college yet, but she has already published her first novel. Call of the Sun Child became available March 7 through Homebound Publications—a work of young-adult fiction whose protagonist, Sempra, comes of age within a post apocalyptic society that has shut her and her community within a sealed, sustainable dome. In this world, the sun has grown so intense as to force the dome-bound humans to become nocturnal, and the most horrible punishment is to be cast out in exile. Nevertheless, Sempra begins to wonder: what is outside the dome? “When she and her childhood friend, Alden, discover a forbidden book, she begins to question the facility, and, with it, everything she has ever known.”
Call of the Sun Child draws on environmental themes, so it comes as no surprise that Varela engages with the environmental studies community here at the UO. She originally intended to be an English major, but has found that a concentration in ENVS, paired with creative writing, has allowed for broader interests: she has taken classes in geology and restoration ecology, and particularly enjoyed a two week-long class during the summer when she got on-the-ground field research experience.
“I really like to be out in the field, but I also like writing,” Varela explains. “I don’t see the two as separate, and I think literature is important as it gets people interested in environmental issues.” What’s more, she often gets her best creative ideas while she’s outdoors. In the case of Call of the Sun Child, she thought up the first nugget that would become her story about a year before she began writing, while she was looking at the moon. She began thinking about the possibility of a nocturnal society, and the rest of her apocalyptic adventure followed. All in all the book took about six months to write, including one summer vacation.
Moving forward, Varela intends to continue her engagement with both fieldwork and literature. She already has ideas for another book, and after graduation, hopes to find a job with an environmental nonprofit, or perhaps even at a National Park. In the meantime she’s looking forward to her last year of school, her interests in figure skating and violin, and trips to Opal Creek, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier.
On April 7, an audience of over 300 people at Cosmic Pizza in Eugene were treatedto a presentation by the River Stories Team–part of the Environmental Leadership Program–who took the podium to present a collection of narratives at the McKenzie River Trust’s annual McKenzie Memories event. As the presentation drew to a close, the audience grew quiet as they listened to the words of McKenzie river guide Jon Payne: “Take the bluest sky, add it to the bluest water, then add as many shades of green as you can imagine on the border, and you’ll look at the McKenzie River.”
Since the start of Winter Term, the River Stories team has been listening hard to stories about the McKenzie River – stories of crossing the McKenzie River in a rowboat to get to school, stories of lodges burning down, stories of learning how to fish for the first time, stories of teaching others how to read, listen, even speak to the river – which, it turns out, is not unlike life.
Over the course of Winter and Spring Terms, students have been thinking critically about the ways stories impact the way we feel about place, how they bring us into community with the more than human world, and how they move us to act. Students received training in media ethics and interviewing before hitting the ground to do fieldwork using array of media techniques – including audio, video and photography. The River Stories team is in the process of implementing an interactive public art project throughout Eugene and the McKenzie and curating an installation at the Lane County Historical Museum that will go up June 7 and run through January 2015.Working with community partners, including the McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum, the Lane County Historical Museum and the Oregon Folklife Network, the team is focused on gathering stories in an effort to inspire stewardship for the McKenzie River, Eugene’s sole water source.
Megan Gleason wasn’t sure what to expect when she showed up at her first meeting with the University of Oregon’s Climate Justice League. She was a freshman new to campus, and attended because an old high school friend took her along; she admits that “I was nervous about going because I didn’t really know anyone there.”
A Junior now, she has been involved with Climate Justice League for three years and credits it with providing not only a means of getting active with environmental issues, but also a community of like-minded peers. Almost immediately, she recalls, “I got to be really good friends with a lot of the more active members of CJL.”
Gleason has since served as Campaign Coordinator for projects with the Climate Justice League, including a project that helped make recycling and composting more accessible on campus. This year, she decided to make a further commitment and take on the role of Co-Director—meaning “instead of organizing campaign events, or what I call ‘on the ground’ work, I do a lot of behind the scenes work, meeting with Coordinators one on one and making sure things go smoothly.” The job has helped her develop practical leadership skills, as she must devote herself to understanding “the nuts and bolts of what it takes to keep a group together, happy, and on the right track.”
As Co-Director of the Climate Justice League, Gleason also found herself as a speaker at the Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. She sat on a panel of speakers with others from PSU and OSU who were working on a campaign that the Climate Justice League had also taken on, called Take Back the Tap. It was an apt time to be addressing the issue: the Climate Justice League had recently pushed a campaign through TBTT, with the support of 85% of faculty and 72% of the student body, to go bottled water-free. It looked like UO was about to become the first public university to make the switch, but just weeks before the conference, “UO President Michael Gottfredson refused not only to pass the policy, but to meet with us to negotiate policy amendments. This decision prompted our campaign to expose the biggest reason the UO said no to going bottled water-free: big money beverage contracts with Pepsi.”
It was a controversial topic, and Gleason was initially nervous to bring it up in front of a public audience. Ultimately, however, she found the presentation to be quite rewarding: “some members of our audience were surprised at our presentation, but I definitely felt a lot of support as I met with people. OHESC is a great place to network and meet people who really want to see institutions of higher education integrate sustainability.”
Moving forward, Gleason expects to graduate in spring of 2015 with a major in environmental studies and a minor in political science. She doesn’t have definite plans after graduation, but law school and graduate school in public policy are on the short list, and she wants to participate next year in the Environmental Leadership Program’s Canopy Connections to get a feel for environmental education. In the meantime she’s taking advantage of interdisciplinary course offerings within the Environmental Studies department, continuing her activism with the Climate Justice League, singing in one of the UO gospel choirs, and reading whenever she gets a spare moment.
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.