Past Research

My past project examined how people envision and aim to solve environmental problems, specifically through improving soil health and water quality within commodity agriculture. I am writing up my findings for wider dissemination. The following themes represent my formative research foci.

  • “Studying up” and ethnography: Iowa corn and soybean agriculture is often depicted as monolithic and devoid of meaningful relationships between people, and people and their environment, both in anthropological literature and popular media. This monolithic perspective misses the complexity of the tensions and bids for change arising within Iowa’s landscape and people. Efforts attempting to maintain and change dominant systems like industrialized agriculture are worthy of ethnographic attention.
  • Ecological comparisons – soil health and water quality: The security of water and soil resources has become a pervasive concern for urban and rural communities throughout the United States, as toxicity and failing infrastructure threaten water supplies and erosion and declining fertility become concerns for long-term, sustainable farming. Recently, some conservation initiatives have advocated for reliance on biology to address environmental degradation. Exploring community responses to water pollution and soil loss, particularly through the lens of lively ecologies, contributes to understanding and creating livable futures.
  • Circulation of knowledge and scientific communication: As scientists and researchers, many of us hope our data speaks for itself. When engaging in scientific communication, we must keep in mind politics and ideologies of stakeholders in order to be responsible stewards of knowledge. In my work, I have found it useful to focus on how and why narratives of scientific research circulate, and considering this a process of power as much as the production and application of scientific knowledge.

These organizations have contributed to my understanding of agriculture and natural resource conservation:

Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)

Practical Farmers of Iowa

Iowa Soybean Association

The Land Institute