It’s here! The 2017 Ecotone has arrived, carrying on another year of tradition here at the UO Environmental Studies Program. Each year, ENVS graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty come together to produce this creative literary publication, and every issue is full of unique surprises and thought-provoking insights into the world around us.
Please stop by the ENVS office to pick up your very own hard copy.
A huge thanks again to everyone who made it possible!
UO will host this year’s Joint Campus Conference (JCC) on May 30th, 2017. The JCC is an annual event that brings together graduate students and faculty from three programs: the Environmental Sciences Program at Oregon State University, the Environmental Sciences and Management Program at Portland State University, and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon.
See here for the schedule and more information on how to submit your poster and oral presentation abstracts!
Congratulations to all our faculty who have won awards this year!
-Brendan Bohannan (Biology) was recently elected to the American Academy of Microbiology Fellows.
-Kory Russell (Landscape Architecture),
Peter Walker (Geography), and Nicolae Morar (Philosophy) have each received the 2017 Faculty Research Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.
–Ronald Mitchell (Political Science) is one of three recipients of the 2016-2017 Tykeson Teaching Award. The award annually recognizes one exceptional faculty member in each of the three CAS divisions.
– Stephen Wooten for won the UO Excellence in Teaching Award for Sustainability for his work developing the Food Studies Program.
-Program director Richard York is the 2017 recipient of the Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Environment and Technology (ASA-ETS).
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.
Are you looking for an internship or a volunteer opportunity? Environmental Connect is just for you!
“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…)
The University of Oregon Graduate School has announced this year’s award recipients, and among them is our very own Jared Pruch, first year master’s candidate in Environmental Studies. Jared has been awarded the David S Easly Award, which supports outstanding master’s and doctoral students pursuing degrees related to environmental conservation and preservation. (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…)
Graduate students in the Environmental Studies program at UO contribute to the field in some inspiring ways. Recently Environmental Studies PhD candidate Sierra Deutsch traveled to Myanmar and Cambodia to study natural resource management, and wrote an article about it in Voices from the Sylff Community. From the Sylff website:
Sierra Deutsch, a Sylff fellow at the University of Oregon, went to Myanmar and Cambodia to assess the two countries’ different approaches to natural resource management. In this article, she describes the preliminary findings of her research and argues that the experiences of local people affected by natural resource policies are important and may have implications for the success of those policies.
To read Sierra’s article, The Socioeconomic Dimension of Irrawaddy Dolphin Conservation, visit Voices from the Sylff Community.
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.
In January of 2014, the Environmental Leadership Program’s River Stories Team asked itself two questions: “what if we could listen to our water source?” and “what would the McKenzie River tell us?” What followed was an intensive process involving 30 interviews with McKenzie River community members, multimedia products drawing on text, photography, audio, and film, and four major community events where the students showcased their work.
The McKenzie River cascades 90 miles from its headwaters at Clear Lake to its convergence with the Willamette River in Eugene; its cold, clear waters are home to McKenzie Red Sides, endangered Chinook Salmon, and countless other species. Together with community partners including the Lane County Historical Museum, McKenzie River Trust, and the McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum, students operated under the conviction that storytelling matters, and that stories about the McKenzie can help preserve its unique heritage, promote stewardship, and draw residents from the greater Eugene area into a closer and more communicative relationship with their only water source.
An ongoing exhibit at the Lane County Historical Museum, scheduled to run until January 2015, is currently serving as the team’s capstone collaboration. “McKenzie River Stories” showcases the work of the team by featuring stories of the original McKenzie River drift boat builders, stories and audio clips from current residents, vivid river photographs and video footage, and a white water boat made by Woodie Hindman for Prince Helfrich. The team describes the many voices featured as similar to “one of the many springs and streams that converge in the McKenzie River; before we can hear the ripples echo, we must first step in.” In the exhibit, the River Stories team encourages visitors to think about their own connection to the McKenzie and how to sustain a conversation with their water source.
Supporting the main exhibit, the team has also installed “River Stories” around town at water fountains and other locations where people interact with the McKenzie. These posters feature photography and quotes about the river and further the team’s goal of promoting awareness, connection, and stewardship of the McKenzie River. To hear these stories and for more information, please click here.
The River Stories Team has also emerged from their experience with a new respect for how difficult some stories can be to access. “Countless unheard voices along the McKenzie River,” they write, “resound in the shadows of the stories that rise to the surface. Many historical and social factors combine to create these silences, but if considered thoughtfully, they can be as transformative and as revealing as the oral histories we do hear . . . For instance, the indigenous names for the river have been dislocated, replaced by the name of a passing fur trader. Our team acknowledges that we have only skimmed the surface of the depth of stories that exists at the intersection of people and place along the McKenzie River.”
What is your McKenzie River story? What if you could listen to your water source? Stop by the Lane County Historical Museum for a chance to explore with the students of UO’s Environmental Leadership Program.
ELP is currently recruiting students for winter and spring of 2015. Click here for more information.