My research focuses on social movements and environmental sociology, with a particular emphasis on movement tactics, environmental politics, and qualitative methods. I have published four papers on these subjects in peer-reviewed journals (with colleagues and as a single author), with two additional papers forthcoming and several manuscripts currently under review. My single-authored paper, “How Glitter Bombing Lost its Sparkle: The Emergence and Decline of a Novel Social Movement Tactic,” received the 2017 CBSM Mayer N. Zald Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Student Paper Award. I am currently a Research Assistant for the Climate Constituencies Project, which studies policy networks and political polarization around climate and clean energy through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. I am also a Fellow at the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland, where I have researched climate activism, civic participation, and environmental stewardship. I have designed and taught undergraduate courses in Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, and Sociological Theory. I emphasize active learning in all of my courses and have taught courses in online, “flipped classroom,” and seminar formats. I have received the University of Maryland Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship for 2017 to support the completion of my dissertation research and will defend my dissertation in spring 2018. I received my MA in Sociology from the University of Maryland in 2012 and my BA from St. Olaf College in 2008.
Powerful Polluters: The Foundations of Environmental Privilege in the Coal-Fired Power Industry
My dissertation is a study of the relationship between environmental harm, political power, and discourse in the US coal-fired power industry. Whereas much of the research on environmental inequality focuses on environmental problems, this mixed-methods study focuses on three forms of environmental privilege: 1) patterns of disproportionality, wherein a minority of industrial facilities produce the majority of pollution in their sector; 2) the ability of industry interests to navigate complex bureaucracies and exert control over regulatory agencies; and 3) discursive power and framing in the debate over energy, the economy, and the environment. I begin by comparing the distribution of CO2 emissions across coal-fired power plants and their parent companies, finding that a small minority of facilities and even smaller percentage of parent companies produce the majority of emissions in the sector. In the qualitative portion of the study, I analyze multiple data sources to understand the debate over coal-fired power, carbon emissions, and environmental policymaking and regulation. To create this extensive dataset, I have interviewed more than 100 political elites in national and state level policy arenas, and have compiled and analyzed more than 10,000 newspaper articles and 1200 policy documents. I find that industry interests have controlled the political and public discourse around coal and that environmental efforts to reframe these narratives have been largely unsuccessful. This work is relevant to understanding environmental politics and energy markets from social science and public policy perspectives. In addition, this research also speaks to broader concerns about the socio-ecological impacts of pollution and climate change and the influence of industry within our democratic institutions.
Areas of Interest
- Environmental Sociology
- Social Movements
- Qualitative Methods
BAPsychology, Women's Studies, & Studio Art--St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
MASociology--University of Maryland, College Park
- Climate Constituencies Project (MacArthur Foundation)- http://www.cse.umd.edu/the-climate-constituencies-project.html
- Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (USDA Forest Service)- https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/urban/monitoring/stew-map/
- Understanding the Effectiveness of Watershed Stewards Academies in Maryland (Maryland SEAGrant) - http://www.cse.umd.edu/projects.html