Unfreezing the Arctic: Science, Colonialism, and the Transformation of Inuit Lands
Under contract with The University of Chicago Press
This book-length project treats the history of Arctic science as colonial and environmental history. I focus on a corner of the circumpolar north–the Beaufort Sea coast from Alaska into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. I examine how scientific ideas produced about this place have been entangled with environmental change and environmental control over the last 150 years. Read more.
The Offshore: Flows of Oil and Knowledge in the Beaufort Sea
This research project explores the history of offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea (Alaska, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories) to better understand the linkages among hydrocarbon development, energy policy, environmental change, and environmental knowledge. I am interested in applying concepts from historical political ecology and the history of science to analyze how a range of historical actors shaped the future of the Arctic oil frontier–from corporate execs, to civil servants, to politicians, to Inuit activists, to scientists and conservationists. I draw on records from US and Canadian federal regulatory agencies; correspondence between Inuit organizations and those agencies; and environmental non-governmental organizations like the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee.
Modern Treaties and Environmental Regimes in Canada
Modern treaties–or, the comprehensive land claim agreements signed between the federal government of Canada and Aboriginal communities since 1975–have reshaped the human relationship with nature in much of the country. This research project examines the ways modern treaties create unique environmental regimes by analyzing the history of the first two modern treaties signed, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975) and the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (1984), along with an important precursor to these, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (1971). I am particularly interested in how federal governmental bodies with regulatory authority over environmental matters–namely, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs; Energy, Minerals, and Resources; and the Department of Environment–shaped the federal position on issues like land use planning, environmental impact assessment, and non-renewable resource management. I draw on archival records from these three departments as well as the personal collection of one of the chief federal negotiators of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, Simon Reisman. This research responds to interests and issues presented at the “Making Treaties Work for Future Generations” conference sponsored by the Land Claims Agreement Coalition in December 2015. My work on this project was supported by a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair fellowship between January and June, 2016.
Hurricane Agnes and the Making of the Chesapeake
I’m fascinated by the notion of a “watershed.” What does it mean for human engagement with the flows of the non-human world–which often transgress the political boundaries we’ve established? When and where did that concept emerge, and how has it shaped our relationship with the environment and environmental problems? I explore this question in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed–a region of special importance to me, and in which Bucknell University’s campus sits.
Hurricane Agnes (also referred to as Tropical Storm Agnes) was one of the most intense and destructive events in American history, and particularly in the memory of Pennsylvanians. The storm dumped 19 inches of rain from Florida to New York between June 19th and June 24th, 1972. In central Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River crested at 32.57 feet – nearly 15 feet above flood stage. Agnes took the lives of 40 people in Pennsylvania (and 122 total) and resulted in $2bil in damages ($12.5bil total). This research will draw from archival research, oral history interviews, and public scholarship to interrogate how, in the wake of Agnes, new regional identities were formed. Not only did residents in the small towns dotting the shorelines of the Susquehanna recognize their connected, but different experiences with flooding, but residents to the south began to rethink the relationship between the River with the large body of water receiving the river’s flow–the Chesapeake Bay. I hope this research informs public understanding of the consequences and possibilities of extreme weather events, especially for a future in which these may become more regular occurrences.
Bushel and Barrel: An Environmental History of Fermentation
A back-burner project, I’ve always wanted to explore the history of brewing as a way of understanding changing human relationships with the environment. I brew beer at home and know it involves a certain combination of lab-bench knowledge, fresh ingredients, clean instruments, and the wonders of yeast. Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, is located in Pennsylvania, not too far from Bucknell. And the region also has some orchards, which produced the United States’ original boozy beverage of choice, hard apple cider.