Past Research Working Groups


Turbulent Futures: A Working Group on Atmospheres

This working group posits the atmosphere as a key site for environmental humanities interventions. Cross-disciplinary attention to atmospheric mediations allows scholars to think anew the relay between visible and invisible phenomena, between everyday experiences of weather and statistical descriptions of climate, between old and new materialisms, and between scientific investigations of fluid dynamics, social-scientific attention to intersecting earth and social systems, and humanistic explorations of the seemingly ethereal histories that lend places their distinguishing feelings.

Group Lead

Group Members

  • Ángel Adames-Corraliza, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
  • Sara Gabler Thomas, English
  • Emery Jenson, English
  • Jen Rose Smith, Geography and American Indian Studies

Microbes, Old Media, and Marginalized Archives

How does climate change threaten to erase the histories of marginalized peoples? This group explores the histories we find on — but also in — the pages of archival media. Relying on the group members’ varied expertise in archives and labs and building on the methodology of biocodicology (the study of biological information stored in old books), we seek to characterize and understand a sample of the largely unidentified microbial communities that thrive on archival media. Drawing on our preliminary data and the research database we create, we will write and submit two major grant proposals.

19th century book, Petri dish (on which selections from the book have been plated with a selective agar medium for culturing microorganisms), and dissecting microscope. Photo by Caitlin Carlson

Group Lead

Group Members

  • Caitlin Carlson, Bacteriology
  • Nicole Fischer, German, Nordic, and Slavic
  • Megan Fox, English
  • Sarah Marty, Business

Uncertain Agroecologies: Wisconsin Farmer Responses to Environmental and Social Change

In the face of growing uncertainty due to environmental (e.g., climate, land use) and social (e.g., COVID, farm consolidation) change, farmers must adapt both on their farms and in their broader social and economic networks in order to remain viable. This project will compare how different agricultural communities of practice in Wisconsin (conventional dairy/row crop farmers, small-scale organic fruit and vegetable growers, and Indigenous farmers) perceive and respond to uncertainty, and how this manifests in the ecology of their farms.

Group Lead

Group Members

  • Claudio Gratton, Entomology
  • Daniel Hayden, Plant Pathology
  • Laura Livingston, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Julia Reynolds, Geography and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Kase Wheatley, Agroecology and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Psychedelic Humanities, Amphibian Conservation, Indigenous Water Rights, Mental Health, Intertribal Alliances, Neoshamanism, and Conspirituality

This working group’s research focus is to sustain our group member’s existing efforts to 1) advocate for the preservation of the Sonoran Desert Toad via species research and monitoring; 2) develop and implement an integrative mental health program in collaboration with specialist researchers and traditional doctors from diverse cultures related to the Yaqui culture; and to specifically 3) extend these projects via inquiries into the human dimensions (social, cultural, and historical factors) at play in each case.

Potential site for the intercultural medicine clinic in Sonora, Mexico.

Group Lead

Group Members

  • Gabriel Carter, English
  • Anny Ortiz, School of Human Ecology and Human Development and Family Studies
  • Alberto Vargas, Nelson Institute and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies

Spring 2021

Feral Worlds: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Human/Other-Animal Relations

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made visible the many ways other-animal behavior shifts alongside human activity, creating what Anna Tsing (2020) calls “feral” ecologies. This group’s project curates a multifaceted publication on other-animals and their “wildness” generating a bestiarum vocabulum (book of beasts) titled becoming-Feral. This diverse collection examines shifting categories of wild/feral/domestic to elucidate how to move forward as participants in shared ecologies. Feral Worlds aims to inspire more ethical and response-able subject positions.

Group Lead

  • Alexandra Lakind, Education and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Group Members

  • Addie Hopes, English
  • Emery Jenson, English
  • Sabrina Manero, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Rebekka Sæter, Visual Cultures (University of California-Santa Cruz)
  • Josh Armstong, Contemporary Performance Practice, Royal Conservator of Scotland
  • Chessa Adsit-Morris, choreographer, performance artist, adventure educator

Living Poetry: Women in Translation Gender and Environment Collective Translation Research and Publishing Project

The Living Poetry: Women in Translation (4W-WIT) project began in Fall 2018 as part of the 4W-International Women Collective Translation Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This initiative gathers a community of readers, translators, and interpreters from various disciplines and institutions, to participate in a collaborative translation of literary texts by writers and scholars from the Americas and Spain. 4W-WIT has dedicated itself to the translation of literary works by award-winning writers of the City and Nature José Emilio Literary Prize, the Cenzontle Literary Prize for Indigenous languages in México, and poetry by women writers on environmental issues.

Group Lead

  • Beatriz Botero, Integrated Liberal Studies Program (ILS)

Group Members

  • Vicente Lopez Abad, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Araceli Alonso, Gender and Women Studies
  • Lori DiPrete, 4W Women and Well-Being Initiative
  • Maria Eulalia Pulla France, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Gabriella Gaus, Psychology and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program (LACIS)
  • Silvia Goldman, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Clara Haeffner, Psychology
  • David Hildner, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Olivia Jones, 4W Women and Well-Being Initiative
  • Sarli Mercado, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Maria Moreno, Global Health Institute
  • Cole Robinson, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Erika Rosales, Wisconsin Center for Education Research

Reflections on the History of Environmental Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Environmental research has had a long tradition across many departments at UW-Madison over the past half-century, which has had significant effects on policy and political processes at many scales. The Wisconsin Idea, especially the belief that expert knowledge can rationally be used to inform policy-making to realize “the public good,” has motivated and structured such research on this campus. However, this ethos is not without its internal contradictions and tensions.

This research working group aims to explore the specific social, political, and cultural contexts that have influenced environmental knowledge production and application here at UW-Madison. In addition, our research highlights implicit norms, values, and ideologies that are inextricably tied to the processes of environmental knowledge production, and generates insights regarding how “post-truth” and misinformation conundrums can be overcome.

Group Lead

  • Zhe Yu Lee, Geography

Groups Members

  • Danya Al-Saleh, Geography
  • Anna Gade, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
  • Laura Lawler, Geography
  • Ned Molder, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Survey of Attitudes Toward GMOs and Agriculture in Mexico

This working group has developed a nationally representative survey to measure attitudes toward genetically modified (GM) crops in Mexico. GM crops remain a hotly contested issue in Mexico, as well as throughout the Latin American region. However, very little research exists to explain how citizens understand and think about this technology. This project explores how citizens think about GM crops, alongside other concepts including biodiversity, herbicides, and organic foods.

Group Lead

  • David Greenwood-Sanchez, Political Science

Group Members

  • Bradford Barham, Applied Economics
  • Claudia Irene Calderon, Horticulture
  • Anika Rice, Geography