Research Interests and Publications

I study American environmental history and the historical geographies of natural resources. This requires an analysis of the cultural, political economic and, and material geographies of resources as they are produced and consumed. (Read More)

My research interests reside at the nature/society tradition of geography at the intersection between environmental history, critical resource geography, and the history of the American West.  I ground my research in a curiosity about the relationships between our knowledge of, and historical interactions with, the natural world  and their political and cultural implications.  I am committed to teasing out the historical and contemporary complexities of these engagements so that we might discover ways to create more just and sustainable relationships with each other and the world around us.  This means grappling with the tensions between perspectives and priorities that are often at odds: urban and rural spaces, political, cultural and natural landscapes, work and play, environmental policy and practice.  I am particularly interested in discovering similarities and points of convergence across these tensions that can animate productive conversations about the sustainability of our relationships with the natural world.

Academic Publications:

“Subdivisions and Deer Uses: Conflicts between Nature and Private Property on the Urban Fringe.” Landscape Research 38.3 (2013): 368-383.

“Paper trails: The Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission and the rationalization of recreational resources.” Geoforum, 41:3 (May 2010), 447-456 (pdf) (doi)

Book Review: THE AMERICAN WEST AT RISK: SCIENCE, MYTHS, AND POLITICS OF LAND ABUSE AND RECOVERY. H.G. Wilshire, J.E. Nielson, R.W. Hazlett. Oxford: New York, NY. 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-514205-1 (hardcover), US$3500, xii þ 619 pp. in Land Degradation and Development (2010). (pdf) (doi)

Accepted for inclusion. “‘In the real estate business whether we admit it or not’: Timber and exurban development in Deschutes County, OR” for inclusion in The political ecology of sprawl: How environmental politics are shaping the urban fringe. Edited by Laura Taylor and Patrick Hurley. Springer.

Non-academic publications:

Editor and co-founder of EC Squared.

“The Other Shore.” Rite of Passage: Tales of Backpacking ‘Round Europe
Edited by Lisa Johnson. Lonely Planet (2003), 147-152

Current Projects

My current project examines the relationship between urban planning, resource management and amenity development in Bend, the “recreation capital of Oregon.” (Read More)

My current project examines the relationship between urban planning, resource management and amenity development in Bend, the “recreation capital of Oregon.”  This project explores the ways that recreational amenities become produced as recreational resources.  The recreational hinterland of Bend links corporate interests, government planning programs, and resource management programs across scales.  I provides the basis for spectacular population growth and exurban expansion in the region–expansion that threatens the very resources upon which it depends.

This project draws upon literatures in critical resource geography and environmental history to query the embedded relationships between cultural and natural landscapes as those landscapes become valuable as resources.  My own critical resource geography of outdoor recreation considers how the situated natures of resources, such as recreational landscapes, simultaneously fit into resource management regimes and challenge assumptions about their production, conservation, and cultural meanings.

This research engages contemporary discussions concerning the “New West,” in which, it is often claimed, rural parts of the the American West have severed ties to their resource-dependent economic patterns in favor of new developments based upon tourism and outdoor recreation. The mountains and deserts that surround Bend and similar towns throughout the West are sites of contestation, managed simultaneously as public goods, private property, and as aesthetic and natural amenities. The resulting landscapes, simultaneously preserved and produced, regulated and privatized, are deeply imbued with political economic, cultural, and natural histories that continue to draw upon mythic values of the landscape and reproduce resource-oriented understandings of nature.

In the time afforded by teaching and completing my dissertation, I’m beginning to formulate three new projects. One examines the cultural impacts of climate change on recreational resource communities. Another concerns historical geography of public land management, with particular attention on the Public Land Law Review Commission, 1964-1970.

About Me

My research seeks to understand the processes of management, production, and consumption of natural resources and the effects of those processes on ecosystems and communities. (Read More)

I began my academic career by attempting to get to know a river.  The core of my Master’s thesis research at the University of Denver consisted of a 1400 mile solo kayak trip from the headwaters of the Snake River in Wyoming to the mouth of the Columbia, outside of Astoria, Oregon.  Along the way I talked with people about how they understood, valued, represented, and used the river.  The often acrimonious debate surrounding four large dams on the Lower Snake River provided the context for many of these discussions.  Through my own experience on the river, historical research, and local conversations, I sought to understand different viewpoints and consider ways that people with divergent understandings of the river might find common ground for discussion and policy making.

This project led to a deeper commitment to the  study of American environmental history and the historical geographies of natural resources. My research seeks to understand the ways we come to know, value, and manage the natural landscapes that surround us, the conflicts associated with that management, and its effects on ecosystems and our communities.  I am currently assistant professor of Environmental  Studies at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT. I completed my dissertation, Recreation Capital: Amenity Development, Natural Resources, and the Nature of Play in Central Oregon, in October, 2011 under the direction of Bob Wilson.

Educational Background

2005- Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Geography
Dissertation: Recreation Capital: Amenity Development, Resource Management, and the Nature of Play in Bend, Oregon
Dissertation Advisor: Robert M. Wilson
Dissertation Committee: Tom Perreault, Don Mitchell, John Mercer, Susan Wadley
Research and Teaching Interests: Environmental History, Critical Resource Geography, Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, History of Geography
2003 University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
Masters of Liberal Studies
Thesis: An Unsteady Noise: A Kayak Trip Down the Snake and Columbia Rivers
Thesis Advisor: Michael Henry
1998 Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota
Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude: English/Media Studies

Professional Affiliations:

The Association of American Geographers

Specialty Groups:

  • Cultural and Political Ecology
  • Cultural Geography
  • Historical Geography
  • History of Geography
  • Recreation, Tourism, and Sport
  • Urban Geography

Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences

The American Studies Association

American Society for Environmental History


Teaching represents an opportunity to help students discover the world around them in new, and often surprising ways. (Read More)

I firmly believe that great teaching requires flexibility, a willingness to get lost for a little bit and the skill, tact, and resolve to re-center discussions and lectures.  I challenge and help students to exceed their own expectations and as they explore, debate, and develop arguments.  My philosophy and experience of teaching integrates immersion in diverse cultural and natural contexts with critical exploration towards an engaged global citizenship.  I see my role as a teacher primarily as a guide, providing advice, critique and knowledge as students set out on a path of their own learning, critical thinking, and active engagement with the world.  My teaching philosophy seeks to harness students’ creativity, aiming to provide them with the tools to actively explore the complex relationships between people, natural resources, cities, and the broader environment.

In my teaching I have encouraged students to find ways to think carefully and critically about their place in the environment and the relationships between historical processes, political-economic conditions, and individual relationship to the environment.  Teaching students at Syracuse University and in India has reinforced my commitment to working with students from diverse backgrounds, challenging students to see the world through perspectives that strive towards justice and equality as they discover a diverse and complex world.

Water in the West (Fall 2014) at the end of a rainy tour of proposed development on the Bear River, UT.
Water in the West (Fall 2014) at the end of a rainy tour of proposed development on the Bear River, UT.

Courses Taught

Dept. of Environmental Studies, Westminster College

  • The Global Environment (ENVI 350)
  • Navajo Public Lands (field studies/service learning) (ENVI 300)
  • Environmental Movements (ENVI 350)
  • Dixie National Forest (service learning) (ENVI 300)
  • Water in the West (ENVI 352)
  • Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVI 101)
  • Senior Seminar (ENVI 405)
  • Climate and Society (ENVI 350)
  • Cultural Landscapes (ENVI 360)
  • Theories of Nature (ENVI 370)
  • Weather and Culture in America (ENVI 360)


Dept. of English, Westminster College

  • Research and Composition (ENGL 110)

Dept. of Geography & Environmental Studies, George Washington University

  • Political Ecology of the City (graduate seminar)
  • Climate and Human Ecology
  • Society and Environment
  • People, Land, and Food
  • Cultural Geography (Writing in the Discipline)

Dept. of American Studies, George Washington University

  • Weather in American History and Culture

Dept. of Geography, Syracuse University

  • America and the Global Environment
  • The Natural Environment
  • Climate, Weather, and Society

South India Term Abroad, Madurai, India

  • Environmental Issues in South India

The Writing Program, Syracuse University

  • Critical Research and Writing Academic Writing



Photo Galleries

Many of the stories concerning our relationship with the natural world have been inscribed on the landscapes around us. These galleries explore some of these stories. (Read More)

Primarily I am an environmental historian and geographer, exploring the ways that people and nature interact.  The stories of those interactions are complex, rich in meaning and contradiction.  They are written in letters, reports, books, budget documents, and on the land itself.  These galleries are suggestive of those stories, contradictions, and the often tense commingling of our histories with the natural world.

Sikkim, India

The American West

South India

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees

Additional Info

While the relationships between nature and people occupy much of my life, I maintain a few other interests. (Read More)

Other Interests

Photo by Jon Remucal

“Baseball,” writes David James Duncan, “is not life. It is a fiction, a metaphor. And a ballplayer is a man who agrees to uphold that metaphor as though lives were at stake.”

Outdoor Sports

When I can, I like to get outside to feel the wind in my face–whether it is a hot headwind off the pavement in a bicycle race, the stab of ice crystals on my cheeks while I’m snowboarding, or the cool wind coming off a lake or a river as I paddle.  The wind, and my experience of it, ties me to a place, moves me through it, and drives me to introduce others to it.  Towards this end I’ve worked as a backpack guide in the North Cascades, a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and a snowboard instructor in the Colorado Rockies.


I learned very early in my life that food matters, that eating together strengthened communities.  The food we eat, ways we prepare it and the ways we eat it matter immensely for our bodies, our communities, and our world.


Thanks to Clark Olson-Smith for taking the profile picture featured on the homepage and Jon Remucal for the wiffleball photo.

Unless otherwise noted, the photographs on the site were taken by Brent Olson.   If you are  seeking permission to reprint or obtain higher resolution versions, please feel free to contact me.