Question. If a small town with a 100-year history of oil drilling is suddenly surrounded by wind turbine construction, will they welcome wind energy or resent it? Every day, I work on those types of problems. I’m an environmental sociologist who studies the social and environmental implications of energy production and consumption.
Most people enter a room and flick the light switch without thinking much of it. But behind that simple action stands a mountain range of workers, infrastructure, laws, and public opinion. To add to it, all of those things are shifting and changing at an unprecedented rate. Climate change. Social justice. Renewable subsidization. Public health questions. Land policy. Taxation issues.
It’s a lot to keep straight. But it’s also important to grapple with these questions. Our future will look very different than it does now. I’m working to ensure that difference is a positive one.
Through the Rural Energy Project at the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College, I strive to understand how energy generation, energy efficiency, and the effects of climate change are affecting people in rural Maryland. We are particularly interested in working with towns in rural areas that are often overlooked in climate and energy issues, but have a strong desire for climate action.
We help towns understand how much energy they are using, how much it’s costing them, and assist in projects to lower both their financial costs and environmental impact. We are also researching barriers to the adoption of renewable energy technologies in rural spaces to better understand how projects can be developed equitably. Further, we are working with our GIS lab to quantify the vulnerability of our communities to energy disruption and build energy resilient towns.
Separately, I’ve also helped spearhead efforts to increase electric car charging infrastructure on Washington College’s campus as well lead programs to teach students about common forms of energy waste.
I also work to advance climate action through my writing, speaking, and work with regional and state climate change groups including the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership. Through these groups I work to engage residents through efforts like social media campaigns and direct outreach. I also help provide resources for community groups, like churches and schools, to spread the word about the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change.
I have had columns published in the Baltimore Sun, the Annapolis Capital Gazette, the Salisbury Daily Times, and the Oklahoma Observer. The writing in my blog has also been featured and shared by groups like the World Wildlife Fund and climate scientists like Michael E. Mann.
In 2014, I earned my bachelors of science in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology from Kansas State University. During that time, I worked on a number of conservation biology projects that examined how human management of rangelands influences plant and animal life as well as commercial ranching operations. It allowed me a first hand look at the intimate connections we share with the natural world. I was able to see how dependant we are on the environment and how we affect it.
In 2016, I earned my masters of science in Environmental Sociology from Oklahoma State University. While serving as the lead researcher for the OSU Social Research Observatory’s efforts in Woodward, Oklahoma, I observed first hand how our social surroundings and emotional connections to the environment influence how we impact it. My research focused on how history and social identity influenced how the people of Woodward felt about the booming wind energy industry in their area.
When I’m not grappling with the tough issues posed by climate change, I’m actually a competitive grappler. I compete year around in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed style grappling tournaments. If I’m not on the mat, I’m usually in the weight room, swimming, or out for a run.
I also enjoy the ecosphere that I help to preserve. Fishing, hiking, and camping are all favorite pastimes of mine. I volunteer with the Boy Scouts to help youth develop an understanding of our environment and themselves. If I have any time left, you’ll see me crack the cover on a science or history book.