2017 Speaker Biographies: Environmental History

Rainer F. Buschmann is professor and founding faculty member in the history program at the California State University Channel Islands.  He has formerly taught at Hawaii Pacific University and Purdue University.  His research and teaching explores the oceanic dimensions of European expansion and has resulted in four books: Oceans in World History (2007), Anthropology’s Global Histories: The Ethnographic Frontier in German New Guinea, 1870-1935 (2009), Iberian Visions of the Pacific Ocean, 1507-1899 (2014), and (with Ed Slack and Jim Tueller) Navigating the Spanish Lake: The Pacific in the Iberian World, 1521-1898 (2014).  In addition to his publications, Professor Buschmann edits the world history section of the History Compass and is co-editor of a new book series entitled Nebraska Studies in Pacific World.

Jennifer Derr is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She completed a Ph.D. in History at Stanford University in 2009. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from Stanford University and a Master of Arts from Georgetown University in Contemporary Arab Studies. Professor Derr’s research explores the intersections among science, medicine, political economy, and the environment in the modern Middle East. Her first manuscript, entitled “A New Nile: The 1902 Aswan dam and the remaking of the environment of the Nile River,” chronicles the multifaceted history of the 1902 Aswan dam. Professor Derr’s second manuscript project examines the history of the hepatitis C epidemic in Egypt. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Commission, the Social Science Research Council, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, the Institute for Humanities Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Hellman Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Kathleen Gutierrez is a Ph.D. candidate in South & Southeast Asian Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation examines Philippine and colonial botanical traditions at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through her project she seeks to trace Spanish and U.S. imperial botanies; the role of local informants and local botanical knowledges; and the significance of textual and non-textual Tagalog materials in historical science studies of the Philippines. Her previous research has included post-World War II Philippine medical botany writing, racial epistemologies of the Spanish Empire through botanical texts, and government-funded botany during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Prior to her graduate program Kathleen had an eight-year career in school health advocacy. She has worked with community clinics across California and with public health teams in Metro Manila, Tarlac, and Davao del Sur, Philippines. Kathleen is indebted to the wisdom of her students, the dedication of her colleagues past and present, and the mentorship of her graduate advisor, the late Jeffrey Hadler. 

Martha Kenney (Assistant Professor, Women & Gender Studies, San Francisco State University) is a feminist science studies scholar whose research examines the poetics and politics of biological storytelling.  Her latest project on environmental epigenetics uses speculative fiction to interrupt dominant biological narratives and imagine more radical ecological futures.  She has recent articles in Social Studies of ScienceScience as CultureBioSocieties, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, as well as an interview with Donna Haraway in Art in the Anthropocene (2015). Prof. Kenney teaches classes on the politics of science, feminist theory, environmental justice, and speculative fiction. 

John McNeill studied at Swarthmore College and Duke University, where he completed a Ph.D. in 1981. Since 1985 he has taught at Georgetown University, in the History Department and School of Foreign Service, where he held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental and International Affairs before becoming University Professor in 2006. He has held two Fulbright awards, a Guggenheim fellowship, a MacArthur grant, a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and a visiting appointment at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books in Environmental History, including: Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-century World (2000); The Human Web: A Bird’s-eye View of World History (2003), co-authored with his father William McNeill; and Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 (2010).

Maya Peterson was an assistant professor of history at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her research and teaching interests included Russian, Soviet, and Central Asian history, the history of the environment, technology, and engineering, as well as comparative empires. Her book Pipe Dreams: Water, Technology, and the Remaking of Central Asia in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union was published in 2019. Based on archival research in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and the United States, Pipe Dreams examines tsarist and Bolshevik efforts to irrigate the Central Asian borderlands and how such hydraulic engineering projects reflected imperial and Soviet notions of civilization and progress, as well as Russia’s quest to be a European empire in the heart of Asia.