Environmental Justice Faculty
Samuel Trask Dana Professor
Arun Agrawal, PhD, emphasizes the politics of international development, institutional change, and environmental conservation in his research and teaching. He has written critically on indigenous knowledge, community-based conservation, common property, population resources, and environmental identities. Agrawal is the coordinator for the International Forestry Resources and Institutions network and is currently carrying out research in central and east Africa as well as South Asia. Since 2013, Agrawal has served as the editor-in-chief of World Development and his recent work has appeared in Science, PNAS, Conservation Biology, Development and Change, among other journals. Preceding his work at U-M, Agrawal was educated at Duke University, the Indian Institute of Management, and Delhi University and has held teaching and research positions at Yale, Florida, McGill, Berkeley, and Harvard among other universities.
Bilal Butt, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability and a faculty affiliate of the African Studies Center. His research is concerned with the political ecology of pastoralism and protected areas in East Africa. He places a large emphasis on empirical fieldwork to understand the lived geographies of the interactions between pastoralists and wildlife in ecologically diverse regions. He combines various geospatial technologies (such as putting GPS units on cows) with historical and ecological dynamics of dryland environments to understand how people, wildlife and livestock are coping with and adapting to changes in climate and politics. He is also interested in the ways that scientific and technical appraisals of rangeland peoples and environments have misread the landscape, leading to orientalist approaches to development programs. He has also had a long history of engagement on questions of environmental conflicts, particular around wildlife poaching, land grabs and green eneregy. Dr. Butt is an NSF Career Award winner and has published in diverse journals such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Remote Sensing of Environment, Journal of Applied Ecology and Humanity. He teaches courses on Conservation and Development, Political Ecology, Environmental Security and Conflict, Environmental Governance, and Preparing for International Fieldwork.
Professor Hardin’s areas of interest and scientific study include human/wildlife interactions, and social and environmental change related to wildlife management, tourism, logging, and mining in equatorial Africa, especially the western Congo basin. Recent projects also focus on the increasingly intertwined practices of health, environmental management, and corporate governance in southern and eastern Africa, including sites in South Africa and Kenya. In 2013-14 she advised a student team studying environmental justice cases within the U.S., and connecting them to the international Environmental Justice Atlas. In 2014–15 she advised a student team assessing groundwater and surface water resources across the African continent, and advising GETF about how to make a better business case for water related investment by businesses in Africa. She teaches and mentors students interested in international environmental practice and policy, wildife management, human relationships to landscape, environmental justice, and global health. She also provides support for the students who are the genius behind SEAS's weekly environmental talk and music show, It’s Hot in Here, airing at noon on Fridays on WCBN FM 88.3, and with an accompanying blog and mp3 archive. The show helps researchers discuss their work with local audiences interested in environmental policy affecting Michigan, and also reach out to national and transnational audiences streaming the show via the Internet. Her recent book Transforming Ethnographic Knowledge explores the discipline of anthropology as a set of skills and tools for social change in sectors as different as business, biological conservation, conflict resolution, and biomedical care. Rebecca teaches courses in both SEAS and the Department of Anthropology, she also founded and coordinates SEAS's Environmental Justice Certificate Program for students beyond those two units working in or studying communities who are either negatively impacted by environmental harms, or experiencing inequality of access to environmental goods and ecosystem services. Rebecca currently coordinates the Environmental Justice field of study and coordinates the Michigan Sustainability Cases initiative.
Assistant Professor Jain's research examines the impacts of environmental change on agricultural production, and strategies that farmers may adopt to reduce negative impacts. She does this by combining remote sensing and geospatial analyses with household-level and census datasets to examine farmer decision-making and behavior across large spatial and temporal scales. To date her work has focused on the impacts of weather variability and groundwater depletion on agricultural production in India, and whether farmers are able to adapt their cropping practices to mitigate these impacts.
Maria Carmen Lemos' broad research interests are related to climate adaptation and the role of knowledge in building adaptive capacity. She is particularly interested in understanding: (a) the co-production of science and decision-making and the creation of actionable knowledge; (b) the intersection between development and climate, especially concerning the relationship between anti-poverty programs and risk management; (c) the use of climate information in building adaptive capacity in different sectors (e.g. drought planning, water management, agriculture, and urban planning); and (d) the impact of technocratic decision-making on issues of democracy and equity.
Lemos was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR5) and the Fourth US National Climate Assessment (NCA4), contribute to IPCC-AR4, and has served in a number of the US National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences committees including Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change (2007 and 2009), America Climate Choice Science Panel (2010) and the Board on Environmental Change and Society (2008-2014) and the Council Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)—(2011-13).
Professor Mohai’s teaching and research interests are focused on environmental justice, public opinion and the environment, and influences on environmental policy making. He is a founder of the Environmental Justice Program at the University of Michigan and a major contributor to the growing body of quantitative research examining disproportionate environmental burdens and their impacts on low income and people of color communities. In 1990, he co-organized with Dr. Bunyan Bryant the “Michigan Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards”, which was credited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of two events bringing the issue of Environmental Justice to the attention of the Agency. He is author or co-author of numerous articles, books, and reports focused on race and the environment, including “Environmental Racism: Reviewing the Evidence”, “Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards”, “Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty”, and “Which Came First, People or Pollution?”. His current research involves national level studies examining the causes of environmental disparities and the role environmental factors play in accounting for racial and socioeconomic disparities in health. Through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, he is also examining pollution burdens around public schools and the links between such burdens and student performance and health.
Professor Mohai is a past member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2007-2013). He is currently a member of the Governor’s Environmental Justice Work Group charged with developing an Environmental Justice Plan for Michigan. He is also currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Environmental Justice Movement Project (ENVJUSTICE) which is documenting and mapping environmental justice conflicts around the world (http://www.envjustice.org/). Professor Mohai has provided testimony on environmental justice to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 and 1999, the U.S. Senate in 2007, and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 2016.
Joshua Newell is an associate professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He is a broadly trained human-environment geographer, whose research focuses on questions related to urban sustainability, resource consumption, and environmental and social justice. Newell’s current research can be divided into two primary areas of interest. The first, Urban Infrastructure and Form, focuses on structural features of the urban form (e.g. built environment, transport, energy, and water infrastructure). The second research area, Urban Consumption and Commodities, focuses on the interrelationships between the consumption of consumer products, our responsibilities as global 'green' urban citizens, and the role of governance mechanisms and frameworks (including local institutions) in regulating product consumption. His research approach is often multi-scalar and integrative and, in addition to theory and method found in geography and urban planning, he draws upon principles and tools of industrial ecology, and spatial analysis. Joshua teaches Sustainability and Society, a large undergraduate course, and Urban Sustainability, which is designed for MS and PhD students. He also leads a year-long interdisciplinary PhD student workshop that grapples with theories and concepts of urbanism, sustainability, and resilience.
George Willis Pack Professor
I am the George W. Pack Professor of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment. My research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. I also work on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and am interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. I am co-author of four books, Breakfast of Biodiversity, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and Coffee Agroecology, and Ecological Complexity and Agroecology.
My recent research is related to ecosystem services in agroforestry systems in Mexico and Puerto Rico. In Mexico my lab is investigating how local level multi-species interactions generate autonomous pest control in agroecosystems using coffee agroforests as a model system. We are also interested in critical transitions within the pest systems in coffee. In collaboration with John Vandermeer (University of Michigan) and Stacy Philpott (University of California-Santa Cruz) I established a 45-hectare plot in a shaded organic coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico, and am conducting research on complex ecological interactions among pests, diseases and natural enemies. In Puerto Rico I collaborate with John Vandermeer and Javier Lugo (University of Puerto Rico, Utuado) in a project that examines tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services from coffee farms within the Model Forest of Puerto Rico. This project also investigates how ecosystem services (coffee and food provisioning, conservation of biodiversity, pest control, pollination and carbon storate) respond to local and landscape level factors. In collaboration with Luis Garcia-Barrios from ECOSUR-San Cristobal (Mexico) I am also developing games to help farmers and students better understand ecological complexity in agroecosystems. After Hurricane Maria, we started a research project examining the resistance and resilience of coffee agroecosystems in the central mountainous region of Puerto Rico. Also, in collaboration with Casa Pueblo, a grassroots community organization, and Boricuá, a network of agroecological farmers in Puerto Rico, we are investigating how gasification, using biomass from farm residues and the trees knocked down by the hurricane, could de use to create a hybrid micro-grid that uses solar energy and syngas. We are also investigating the potential impact of the biochar generated through the gasification process on soil properties, plant growth and crop yield.
I teach “Globalization and its Discontent: Struggles for Food, Water and Energy” (Environ 270), Diverse Farming Systems (NRE 553), and Field Ecology (NRE 556). In my courses I like to challenge students to think for themselves. Most of my courses have a strong Latin American flavor because I am from Latin America (Puerto Rico) and I conduct research in Latin America (Mexico, Mesoamerica and Puerto Rico). Most of my courses are interdisciplinary and are taught from a social justice perspective. I teach undergraduate courses in sustainable development and globalization, and the agroecology and political ecology of food systems, a graduate course in field ecology, a graduate course in diverse farming systems, and graduate seminars on topics that range from conservation in fragmented habitats to food sovereignty.
As a multidisciplinary scholar, with degrees in engineering and social science, Assistant Professor Reames' research agenda seeks to connect the areas of technological advancement, the policy process, and social equity. His research extends the environmental justice scholarship to focus on energy justice. He is currently exploring disparities in residential energy generation, consumption, and affordability- focusing on the production and persistence of inequality by race, class, and place.
James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor; Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In 2020, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) identified Professor Dorceta Taylor as one of the six people continuing Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy through her work. Professor Taylor's research interests include urban agriculture, food access, and food insecurity. She was the principal investigator on a U.S. Department of Agriculture project that examined food access in Michigan. The food access in Michigan project assessed disparities in access to healthy foods by examining the prevalence of supermarkets, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, liquor stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and other food outlets. The study also looked at emergency food assistance at soup kitchens and shelters. Journal articles such as, “Food Availability and the Food Desert Frame in Detroit: An Overview of the City’s Food System” (Environmental Practice), and “Black Farmers in the U.S. and Michigan: Longevity, Empowerment, and Food Sovereignty” (Journal of African American Studies), exemplify this work.
Dr. Taylor is a leading expert in the field of institutional diversity and workforce dynamics in the environmental sector. She published an influential report in 2014 entitled The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies. Professor Taylor is very engaged in diversity work. Taylor is the director of two pathway programs to help underrepresented students embark on careers in environmental organizations. She directs the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at Michigan as well as the Environmental Fellows Program. She is a renowned environmental historian who published the award-winning 2009 book, The Environment and the People in American Cities (Duke University Press). Another of her books, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (NYU Press, 2014) is recognized as one of the ten most influential books on climate change by Riot Books. Her latest book is Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection: Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement (Duke University Press, 2016).