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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

Environmental Humanities

Environmental humanities subsumes environmental philosophy, environmental history, ecocriticism, cultural geography and anthropology, and political ecology. Such work provides a necessary basis for understanding the relationship between humans and nature, and hence is part of the foundation of environmental policy. Our faculty strengths lie in environmental history, cultural geography and cultural anthropology.

Environmental Humanities Faculty


Jessica Barnes

Dr. Barnes received her Ph.D. in sustainable development from Columbia University in 2010 and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Yale Climate & Energy Institute and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies from 2011 to 2013. She joined the University of South Carolina in 2013 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography with a joint appointment in the School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment .

Monica Barra

Monica Barra

Monica Barra completed her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York in 2018. Additionally, she holds a masters degree in American Studies from Rutgers University and a bachelors degree in Urban Studies and Literature from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands. Monica joined the University of South Carolina in 2018 as an assistant professor in the area of Race and Environment at the School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology.


Gwendelyn Geidel

Prediction, prevention and remediation of ground and surface water contamination caused by mining and other anthropogenic disturbances of the earth’s surface. Examples include investigations of rock-water interactions from mining activities (including both coal and metal mining in the US and Canada), the degradation of water quality from the oxidation of sulfide minerals, laboratory evaluation of acid and alkaline potentials from rock strata, field investigations of the long term effects of mining, and the implementation at field sites of constructed wetlands, anoxic limestone drains, alkaline trenches and other remediation and reclamation technologies.


Conor M. Harrison

Dr. Harrison’s research examines the relationship between energy and society, with a particular focus on political economy and power relations.  Portions of his work have been published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geoforum, and Local Environment. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Center for Study of the American South, and the University of North Carolina.


David Kneas

David’s research examines the history and contemporary articulations of Andean landscapes, in particular, how past discursive landscapes shape the material geographies of the present, and vice-versa. His current book project is a historical ethnography of an ongoing conflict over a proposed copper mining in northwestern Ecuador. This project draws on his doctoral dissertation, research that combined two years of two ethnographic fieldwork and archival research in Ecuador with David’s own experience of working in the country since 2000, as well as archival research in the US and the UK.


Thomas Lekan

Professor Lekan teaches specialized undergraduate courses and seminars on environmental history, the urban experience in modern Europe, and German social history. His research focuses on European environmental history and the global dimensions of nature conservation, ecotourism, and green imperialism; comparative urban and regional planning history; and the environmental humanities.  


Jennifer R. Pournelle

Millennial-scale urban sustainability and complex societies, studied through: landscape archaeology, anthropological archaeology, archaeology of the Middle East, cultural ecology, historical ecology, as they relate to wetland environments. Interpreting and relating air photography and satellite imagery to other paleoenvironmental data, toward reconstructing past landscapes.

Katherine Ryker

Katherine Ryker

Dr. Ryker explores connections between reformed classroom practices, student learning, teaching beliefs and the implementation of inquiry-based labs in introductory geoscience lectures and labs. Her research interests also include online educational resources, professional development, and student learning strategies and engagement in large introductory courses. She is part of a team looking at the connection between teaching beliefs and practices for geoscience faculty members at a variety of institutions across the country.


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