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June 3, 2014

Featured Faculty: Sarah Wald

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.

June 1, 2014

Featured Student: Francesca Varela

Francesca_Varela_smENVS 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.

March 31, 2014

Featured Alumna: Alayna Linde

Alayna Linde is a recent 2013 graduate of the Environmental Studies Master’s program, and she is the first to admit to “taking full advantage of the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ aspect of the program.” With courses in sociology, international studies, non-profit management, and PPPM (Planning, Public Policy and Management), her course load was neither repetitive nor, from the outset, entirely predictable.

alaynaFrom a personality standpoint, she believes that this meshed well with the way she learns from and interacts with the world, given that she thinks her “brain’s default setting is somewhere between one or more disciplines.” Alayna came to the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but she had also volunteered with an environmental non-profit and was interested in expanding her toolbox when it came to addressing environmental concerns. This ultimately led to degree concentrations in sustainability and affecting social change, with a decidedly non-chemistry lean towards communication work. She believes that her varied academic interests were critical in this development: “even the pursuit of inderdisciplinarity,” she recalls, “can result in good conversations of people listening to other points of view, which I think is a huge part of good communication.”

Alayna know the value of good communication. Her thesis work took her to China with three other ENVS students and the UO Chinese Philanthropic Leadership Association, were she used interviews to examine the use and usefulness of water pasteurization indicators. “Were I to do it all again,” she half-jokes, “I’d devote two years solely to the study of Mandarin, preferably in the community of my intended work, before attempting field research. But I knew that going in!” Such communication hurdles did offer interesting lessons in how to confront them: “I was fortunate to have wonderful Chinese interpreters and friends, and a supportive and motivating support team of advisers and committee members to help me make something of my limited research.”

Nowadays, she puts her skills to work with EnviroIssues, a communications and public outreach consulting firm based in Seattle. As a project coordinator, she supports the outreach work for clients such as the Washington State Department of Ecology, King County Department of Transportation, and Puget Sound Energy. Here again she sees value in varied experiences and a broad background: “At EI, people come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. This contributes to a collaborative work environment where you have different voices and perspectives working toward common goals, so I think my time in the interdisciplinary ENVS program was a good primer. Moreover, the critical thinking skills, research techniques, advanced writing, and time in front of a classroom as a GTF demanded of me as an ENVS student have served me very well for my work as a consultant.”

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

December 11, 2012

Featured Faculty: David Sutherland

As David Sutherland sees it, although Coos Bay lacks the glaciers of far-off Greenland’s majestic fjords, the nearby Oregon inlet is just as fascinating. Although Sutherland, an MIT-trained oceanographer, has conducted much of his research in Greenland, when he joined the UO Department of Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies Program faculties last September, he “wanted to work on something local and Oregon-centric.” Creating a computer model of the complex estuarine processes in Coos Bay fit the bill perfectly.

The Coos Bay modeling project is just getting underway. The first step is to gather data describing all of the physical variables that affect the dynamics of the estuary, including the seasonal amounts of water flowing out of Coos River, the area’s weather patterns, the tides, and the estuary’s bathymetry, or shape.

Not only are most of these variables constantly in flux, but they all influence each other, which makes creating a reliable model challenging, to say the least. In Coos Bay, Sutherland explains, “The river discharge is extremely seasonal, going from very wet during the winter storm season, to dry during the late summer and early fall. This change in river input has a drastic influence on the salt content of the estuary, and thus, on its currents, or circulation.” In turn, the circulation, which is also affected by the estuary’s bathymetry as well as by tides and winds, “can dictate the estuary’s salt and temperature distribution.”

To create a computer model of the complex interactions of all of these factors, Sutherland is drawing from tide gauges, meteorological observations, bathymetric charts, and weather models. To ensure that the model is accurate, he is also working with a graduate student who is collecting real-life observations in Coos Bay. “No model is complete without observations—you need to initialize it somehow and you need to validate it.”

Sutherland says of the modeling project, “This is not a pie-in-the-sky exercise, as the liquefied natural gas terminals being discussed for Coos Bay might require ships with a deeper draft, and thus, a deeper channel.” This could have environmental impacts that Sutherland’s model will be designed to help predict. “Changing the shape of the channel could alter the salt balance and circulation in the estuary,” which has the potential to drastically affect the habitats of aquatic species.

In addition to the Coos Bay project, Sutherland is also working on two projects on fjord circulation in Greenland, one funded by the National Science Foundation and the other by NASA. “It’s time-consuming planning for fieldwork in Greenland. But it’s extremely rewarding, both scientifically and from a traveling point of view. It’s a beautiful part of the world!” he says.

In the near future, Sutherland would also like to begin doing glacier-fjord system research in Alaska. “Ironically,” he says, “it is easier to obtain funding to work in Greenland than in Alaska even though the systems are very similar in terms of physical processes and travel to Alaska is much cheaper. The Greenland Ice Sheet is a bigger player in terms of potential sea level rise and is much less explored.”

When asked to reflect on his first year at the UO, during which he taught two large lecture courses in addition to conducting his new and ongoing research projects, Sutherland exclaims, “It’s been a whirlwind!” Of the environmental studies course he taught he says, “It was an amazing introduction to the Pacific Northwest environment and I learned a ton about the natural environs of the Willamette Valley through my interactions with the Environmental Studies Program.” He especially appreciated the opportunity to interact with his students outside of the classroom during the class’ Campus-Community Connections volunteering events.

Looking toward the future, Sutherland will be developing an advanced course in coastal oceanography, and hopes one day soon to teach a course on scientific writing or documentary filmmaking. “This is an area that we, as scientists, need practice in—communicating our results with the public. So we might as well start teaching it to our students too!”

In the long term, Sutherland dreams of using autonomous underwater vehicles called ocean gliders to further investigate Greenland’s fjords. “This would allow us to get data on water properties underneath ice where ships cannot go.” Sutherland also envisions developing “novel technologies for observing the ice-ocean interface in these glacier-fjord systems. Iceberg trackers, tagging marine mammals, etc. are all on the table!”

Most exciting, though, is that Sutherland and his wife, Kelly, who is also an oceanographer and UO professor, just became new parents: Marin Ashley Sutherland was born on November 27th. David jokes, “We’re hoping to raise a little salty Duck.”

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

October 25, 2012

Featured Student: Keats Conley

The summer before she came to the University of Oregon, Keats Conley, now an environmental studies Master’s student, read Ted Danson’s book, Oceana, which discusses the prediction that in less than one hundred years, the only seafood remaining in the oceans will be jellyfish. “I was so haunted by this idea that upon arriving in graduate school I sought out an advisor who specialized in ‘gelatinous macrozooplankton,’” she says wryly.

From that advisor, Dr. Kelly Sutherland, Keats learned about the “Trojan horse” hypothesis: the idea that jellyfish may be proliferating because, in their polyp stage, they prefer to attach to the now-abundant artificial materials of docks, aquaculture facilities, and offshore energy turbines. Working closely with Dr. Sutherland, Keats designed an experiment to look into the possibility that coastal development may influence the scale of jellyfish blooms in the Northern California Current.

Being an interdisciplinary thinker, however, Keats was just as interested in how jellyfish affect humans as in how human actions affect jellyfish, so she designed a survey to see if jellyfish blooms are currently impacting commercial fisherman in Oregon, Washington, and California. This summer, Keats began working on both her projects simultaneously at the UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.

When asked what her research involves on a day-to-day basis, Keats replies “A lot of weird things! The one consistency is a lot of repetition—but repetition of drastically different kinds of things.” Things like stuffing 1000 survey envelopes, gluing down 300 postage-stamp-sized samples of typical coastal development materials, and pipetting 5,000 jellyfish larvae (which look like “little yellow submarines”) into a petri dish. There are highlights, though: “Last week, I drove up to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and drove back down with a giant yellow trashcan of jellyfish in my backseat.”

Keats sees the interdisciplinarity of the Environmental Studies Program as one of its key strengths. “This program has afforded me the opportunity to work alongside my dream advisor and pursue research that I find genuinely exciting. I’ve had the flexibility to study marine biology against a natural resource management background that includes environmental economics and management of marine fishes,” she says.

After she finishes her thesis next spring, Keats plans to work with Dr. Sutherland at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories on San Juan Island. Eventually, she hopes to go on to study aquatic or bioresource science and possibly work in an aquaculture laboratory in Japan. Her long-term goal is to help “further the development of rural aquaculture, which has the potential to relieve strain on wild fish stocks worldwide.”

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

April 2, 2012

Featured Faculty: Matt Dennis, Bitty Roy & Josh Roering

ENVS faculty Bitty Roy, Josh Roering, and Matt Dennis – of biology, geology and history – believe that we have a responsibility to understand the nature and history of our own environment. Last spring, they launched a course to help students better understand Oregon: “Oregon Abroad: a physical, natural and cultural history.” They set up four interlocking courses to be taken simultaneously, and planned seventeen days of fieldwork throughout the state: in the Willamette Valley, the Coast Range mountains, the coast, and the Basin and Range.

Photo credit: Matt Dennis

“Bitty was the major inspiration,” Matt Dennis says, referring to her familiarity with the landscape of eastern Oregon. But another inspiration came from the humanities: Walden. Thoreau writes, “It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar… be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”  For Dennis, this meant “our new channels of inquiry would be in our home terrain – in Oregon – in some cases scrambling to construct new expertise that built on our research and teaching but often went well beyond it.”

There were challenges to teaching such a thoroughly interdisciplinary course. “As a historian I usually work inside – we’re an archive-based, bookish, relatively individualistic (non-collaborative) clan. It was a challenge to teach history outdoors, using landscapes and built environments as evidence and text, and to integrate historical knowledge with geological and biological observation and interpretation.”

But as the term went on, their academic training and the students’ enthusiasm transformed three disciplines into a cohesive learning community.

Josh Roering agrees. “I often found myself asking the biology or history students to educate me on something Bitty or Matt had said and this type of initially casual inquiry builds into more profound ideas over the course of a term. It’s really an organic process that begins with just hanging out together. In the university structure, we don’t have enough incentive to do this and we were delighted to have this opportunity.”

And how was the experience for the students? “One student, toward the end of the course, reflecting on all we had done lamented, ‘I can’t believe we have to go back to regular college.’  I think their regular college is better for their participation in Oregon Abroad.  My regular college certainly is,” Dennis reflects.

The team of professors hope to offer the course every other spring, but until it comes into rotation again, they will have to be satisfied with memories such as this, from Matt Dennis:

The class bonded in the slick mud of the Alvord Desert Playa in the midst of our Malheur trip. It was completely unexpected as a few students gingerly skated with bare feet out into the playa, covered by about half an inch of water for miles in every direction, atop a hard, flat layer of mud. Usually that expanse was dry, baked a grayish white color, but this year inordinate amounts of snow and rain had left it slathered in liquid.  Suddenly someone decided to run and slide, someone fell, someone decided to bellywhomp, and soon nearly everyone was slip-sliding across the playa, covered in mud, and filled with joy.  To say they were one with nature at that moment would not be an exaggeration.  Later the mud dried, coating bodies, hair, and clothes with a white layer of silt that adhered tenaciously, though it also spread to everything it touched, like the state vans.  Eventually everything was cleaned (days later playa dust could still be detected), but I still remember Ben’s pants, drying in the sun the next day, standing up on their own.

Photo credit: Matt Dennis

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

December 1, 2011

Featured Faculty: Kathy Lynn

Kathy Lynn is an adjunct faculty researcher in the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies Program, where she coordinates the Tribal Climate Change Project, a collaboration with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Detailing the importance of the project, Lynn explains, “For indigenous peoples, the environmental impacts of climate change and some of the proposed solutions threaten cultural survival and ways of life, including subsistence and financial resources.” This project builds an understanding of the needs, lessons learned, and opportunities American Indians and Alaska Natives have in planning for the physical effects of climate change. Findings from this research are intended to inform resource management decision-making.

“Our current research is focused on examining how climate change will impact tribal culture, sovereignty and resilience. Specifically, we seek to understand how tribal rights, including access to, use and management of resources on- and off-reservation will be affected by climate change,” Lynn says. And furthermore, “We are also developing profiles of tribes engaged in innovative efforts to address climate change through the development of adaptation plans, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and through collaboration with other tribal entities and public and private organizations,” Lynn points out.

From the profile on the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative.

Given the breadth and significance of the project, Lynn can’t do it alone. On her team are three student researchers: Carson Viles, an undergraduate student in the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program and the Clark Honors College; Kirsten Vinyeta, a graduate student from the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program; and Yochanan Zakai, a law student, situated in the University of Oregon School of Law.

Viles writes, “Working for the Tribal Climate Change Project has been a rare opportunity for me. My interest as an Environmental studies student is in indigenous advocacy, and this project allows me to narrow my focus while getting an inside view of what is going on in many native communities today. Also, I am getting the chance to see how professionals are collaborating and networking to solve complex problems in Native America. Helping with this project, I feel as if I am actually doing something meaningful!”

Lynn adds, “We are also examining the role of traditional knowledge in understanding climate change impacts and identifying culturally appropriate strategies to address climate change. Our hope is that this research will contribute to an understanding of these issues among policy makers, agencies and researchers, while also assisting tribes to plan for climate change and better engage with public agencies addressing climate change.”

Through this project, Lynn facilitates the Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network, which includes over 75 individuals representing American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, intertribal organizations, public agencies and non-governmental organizations that work directly with tribes. She has also had the opportunity to contribute findings from the project to regional and national audiences, including the National Congress of American Indians, the National Climate Assessment and the Northwest Climate Science Center.

More information on the project can be found at:

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

June 4, 2011

Featured Students: Kory Northrup & Briana Orr

ENVS master’s student Kory Northrop and Environmental Studies undergraduate Briana Orr are making a difference in bicycle advocacy, education and planning. This year, their efforts have helped bring bicycle transportation issues into focus at a local and national scale.

Largely due to Briana Orr’s efforts, the University of Oregon received a Silver-level Bike Friendly University award from the League of American Bicyclists. UO was one of 20 universities across the country to be recognized, with Stanford University taking the only platinum-level award.  The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff and visitors. Briana, along with UO Bike Program coordinator Ted Sweeney, researched and wrote the application.

Briana also wrote and received a 17k grant from the Associated Students of University of Oregon for bicycle infrastructure improvements identified in the 1991 Campus Bike Plan.  Briana’s proposal will create a premier bicycling network on campus.  The grant will help install bicycle path signage and safety pavement markings for cyclists, and the UO Bike Program will perform outreach and education around the new bicycle infrastructure features.

“When I think about making a street comfortable and enjoyable for people, I instantaneously begin to imagine all of the conversations and interactions that will take place,” says Briana. “Designing the framework for interactions is what gets me excited about transportation.”

Kory Northrop agrees.  “To me, and many advocates in the field, a true bicycle-friendly city is one in which a family with small children could safely and comfortably traverse the streets to accomplish all of the tasks required to live their lives whether it’s getting groceries, going to school, seeing a film, or just taking a joyride,” says Kory.

Kory is passionate about data visualization and about bicycle transportation. This year, he created a map graphic that has appeared in local and national bicycle media, including the League of American Bicyclists and We Bike Eugene websites.  Bicycle Commuting Trends in the United States creates a tool for bicycle advocates that is both clean and informative.  It pulls together data in a visual format, painting a different picture than would be gained by looking at individual data sets.

Kory hopes that tools like this one will help inform the people who are making decisions about bicycle transportation.  “I think that we need to be reaching out to the public and the decision makers at the same time,” he says.  “It’s important for both of these groups to know about the benefits of bicycling. It’s important for us, as a country, to start getting serious about bicycling as a legitimate mode of transportation. If we want to move away from automobiles and our oil dependency, making big investments in bicycle infrastructure is lucrative and efficient.”

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

November 28, 2010

Featured Student: Kevin Belanger

“The best part of ENVS in my opinion is the emphasis on community.  The small incoming classes each year allow us to create a close and supportive group of students and faculty.”

When Kevin Belanger entered the Environmental Studies Program in Fall 2008, he was passionate about alternative transportation and ready to engage in graduate studies that would provide him with direct professional experience.  This December, Kevin graduates with concurrent Masters degrees in Environmental Studies and Community and Regional Planning.  He looks forward to turning his passion into practice.

“I want to use my environmental studies and community and regional planning degrees to make it easier for people to choose to use other modes of transportation besides the personal automobile,” says Kevin.

Upon beginning the program, Kevin quickly found a thesis project directly related to his academic and professional interests.  For the past two years, he’s worked with Nico Larco, an Assistant Professor of Architecture, on an ongoing project examining walking and biking in Eugene suburban multifamily housing.  Kevin developed and conducted surveys, and his thesis ultimately offers recommendations to help improve transportation options in these kinds of communities.

Kevin also recently completed an academic internship as a transportation planner for the City of Gresham.  Over the summer, he helped redesign a major arterial to make it easier for people to walk to public transportation stops in Gresham, and also wrote a large federal transportation grant application for the city. “This internship gave me tangible experience and solid connections to help me fulfill my goals, which was awesome,” says Kevin.

Later this December, Kevin will return home to Washington, D.C., where he hopes to improve the walking and biking environment on the East Coast.

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

November 18, 2010

Featured Faculty: Allison Carruth

Professor Allison Carruth is an Assistant Professor of English and the newest member of the Environmental Studies Program’s core faculty, having joined the program this past September. Allison arrived at the University of Oregon in 2008 after earning a PhD in English and American Literature from Stanford University.  She was awarded a Resident Scholar Fellowship with the Wayne Morse Center for Law & Politics for 2010-11.

“I was delighted to become a core faculty member this fall,” says Allison. “The opportunity to collaborate with scholars working in areas such as riparian ecosystems, urban planning and environmental ethics enriches my own research and teaching.”

As a Resident Scholar with the Wayne Morse Center, Professor Carruth is organized an interdisciplinary conference that brought together scholars, policymakers, nonprofit leaders, farmers and food purveyors to consider questions of food justice, security, and sustainability.  The Food Justice Conference took place in February 2011, and featured Indian activist Vandana Shiva, farm policy leader Fred Kirschenmann, and Gastronomica founding editor Darra Goldstein, among others.

Dr. Carruth is particularly fascinated by questions that explore the intersection of food, technology, and the arts.  In her scholarship, she draws from multiple disciplines to ask how contemporary writers, media makers, and artists understand environmental problems around industrial agriculture and biotechnology.  Allison completed her first book, Global Appetites:  Imagining the Power of Food, this summer.  She is currently working on a new project, titled Bio-Art: Mediating Science in the Transgenic Era, also funded by her fellowship with the Wayne Morse Center.

Bio-Art investigates a group of writers, artists, architects, molecular biologists, and even product engineers who are bridging two cultural divides:  the division of art and science and the tension between technological development and environmental conservation,” says Allison.

When not working on her academic pursuits, Allison can be found cooking, skiing, or maintaining her blog.

To learn more about Allison Carruth’s work, please visit her website.

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

October 13, 2010

Featured Student: Julia Ridgeway

«I came to the UO unsure of exactly what I wanted to do for my Master’s thesis, but I knew that with the flexibility and interdisciplinarity of the Environmental Studies Program that I would be free to explore.»

When Julia Ridgeway came to the Environmental Studies Program in 2009, it didn’t take long for her to find a unique research niche that fit her interests. Julia joined a research group in the Anthropology Department that conducts research in the Ecuadorian Amazon every summer.

For her master’s thesis, Julia will be working with an indigenous federation as they undergo the process of westernization. «Topics as complex as westernization and indigenous cultural transition are something that can only be approached from an interdisciplinary and nuanced perspective, and the people at the Environmental Studies Program understand and support that sort of cross-pollination,» says Julia.

This summer Julia will spend two months in the Ecuadorian Amazon working with the Shuar Health and Life History project. The project is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international collaboration between researchers in the United States, Ecuador and leaders of the indigenous Shuar Federation. The Shuar are in the process of transitioning from a traditional hunter-gatherer economy to a more westernized market, and the UO research group is studying the effects of that transition on their culture and health.

Julia’s focus will be on the effect of these changes on women’s health, specifically on their fertility and reproductive choices. I will be taking blood samples for hormone analysis and also conducting surveys to find out how westernization impacts the choices women make about their bodies and their families.

«I have always been very interested in the various biological and cultural factors that affect women’s health and choices,» says Julia, «And I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about those topics first hand.»

After finishing her master’s degree in 2011, Julia hopes to continue teaching and conducting research at the university level. She plans to continue focusing on the intersection of environmental and economic change, women’s health, and Latin America. What did you do between undergrad and grad school?

Julia’s research in Ecuador is funded through the Barker Foundation and by the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies at the University of Oregon.

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.

September 28, 2010

Featured Faculty: Brendan Bohannan

«The Environmental Studies Program has helped me think in a truly interdisciplinary way. I’m a better teacher, better environmental scientist and better citizen because of it.»

Prof. Bohannan joined the University of Oregon faculty in September of 2006, after eight years on the faculty at Stanford University. He is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department as well as serving as core faculty for the Environmental Studies Program. He is particularly fascinated with the diversity of microbial life and much of his research is focused on understanding the causes and consequences of microbial biodiversity. Recent work includes studies of the spatial scaling of bacterial biodiversity, the response of bacterial and archaeal communities to environmental change, and the role of spatial structure in the generation and maintenance of bacterial and viral diversity.

Brendan has research projects around the world, including in the Brazilian Amazon, South Africa, Australia, Michigan, and Oregon. His work has been published in the journals Nature, Science, PLoS, PNAS and many others. Brendan was awarded a Williams Fellowship and a Wulf Professorship in recognition of his teaching at UO, which includes Ecology (BI 370), Community Ecology (BI472/572), and the Philosophy of Ecology (BI410/510, with Ted Toadvine).

When not professing, Brendan can be found climbing mountains or digging in his garden.

Learn more about Prof. Bohannan’s research work

Featured Alumna: Janet Fiskio

Janet Fiskio received her Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy in 2009 with English as her focal department. She is now an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. Oberlin’s Environmental Studies program was among the first in the U.S. and has a long history of valuing the humanities. She teaches on such themes as environmental justice, ethics and equity in climate change, and sustainable agriculture.

“I love what I do: reading, thinking, talking, teaching, writing,” says Janet. “Focusing in Environmental Studies is a good bridge for me between academics and activism. I believe that teaching is a force for social change, and I have faith in my students’ abilities to make a difference.”

Janet’s new position ties in well with her interests and accomplishments while at the UO. She completed her dissertation Nature, Knowledge, Justice in the summer of 2009. Her dissertation argues for the epistemological value of literature for the field of environmental studies. While a Ph.D. student, Janet received the Donald and Darrel Stein Award for teaching, a CSWS/CoDaC summer research award, an Oregon Humanities Center Fellowship, and the Luvaas and Risa Palm Fellowships. She also taught classes in Environmental Studies, English, and Composition, and served one year as Assistant Director of the Composition Program.

Before enrolling at the University of Oregon Janet completed two terms with AmeriCorp’s program “Communities in Partnership to Stop Violence against Women and Children” as a community educator. She has also worked at Sexual Assault Support Services to coordinate education programs and has taught self-defense for women and girls. Janet earned a B.A. from Earlham College, a M.Div. from the Earlham School of Religion, and an M.A. from the University of Oregon in Environmental Studies.