Faculty

The Environmental Studies program takes a unique approach, harnessing expertise and perspectives from numerous faculty and lecturers across the UW campus.

The program benefits from a teaching team with varied expertise in the natural world, food systems, sustainability, communication, environmental management and ethics. This well-rounded group of experts provide students with a balanced education to tackle nuanced environmental issues.

Core Faculty

DSC_0358Tim Billo

Lecturer, Environmental Studies

email: timbillo@uw.edu
office: 015F Wallace Hall
website

Courses

My academic interests are grounded in basic observations of nature. My undergraduate thesis analyzed the response of New England forests to the loss of the American chestnut, a once-prominent tree species virtually eliminated from eastern North America after the introduction of an exotic fungal pathogen. My doctoral dissertation research took me to the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama where I studied behavioral interactions between two hybridizing bird species to better understand how and why some traits are exchanged between species, while others are not. How species differences are maintained or dissolved has important implications not only for evolutionary biology, but also for conservation. I am also passionate about teaching. In addition to my Environmental Studies courses, I teach ornithology, conservation biology, evolution, and an Exploration Seminar on ecology and conservation in Peru. In my free time, I enjoy exploring Washington’s many wilderness areas on foot and on skis.


Photo of Sara Brostrom

Sara Brostrom

Predoctoral Lecturer, Environmental Studies
Master’s candidate, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs

email: sebro@uw.edu
office: 015E Wallace Hall
office hours: 10:20am-11:20am

Courses

Education

  • B.S. Biology, Western Washington University, 2009
  • M.A.T Secondary Education, Johns Hopkins University, 2011
  • M.M.A School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, Expected 2017

Sara grew up camping and hiking with her family in Rainier and Olympic National Parks. For Sara, these formative experiences sparked an early interest in science, conservation, and education. After undergrad, Sara worked as a public school science teacher in Baltimore and Seattle and as a field science educator in the Olympic National Park. Currently, she is pursuing a graduate degree in marine affairs at the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs (SMEA). At SMEA, Sara’s focus is on the economic and social impacts of harmful algal blooms to fishing communities on the West coast. Outside of UW, Sara enjoys spending time with family and friends and exploring the Pacific Northwest.


Joyce LeCompte Mastenbrook

Lecturer, Environmental Studies

email: jklm@uw.edu
office: 015H Wallace Hall
website

Courses

Education

  • B.A. Anthropology, University of Washington, 2004
  • Ph.D. Environmental Anthropology, University of Washington, 2015

As an environmental anthropologist, my research and teaching focuses on the ways culture, politics, science and history inform human relationships with the environment, and how these relationships and understanding affect social life and human wellbeing. My current collaborative projects are community driven and focused on supporting opportunities for, and understanding the barriers to, the (re)integration of traditional plant foods into the everyday lives of Puget Sound Coast Salish communities. I am committed to environmental justice and cross-cultural understanding in my teaching as well as in my research. I am passionate about helping students cultivate their capacity to understand and appreciate other ways of knowing and being in the world, and also encouraging students to notice the role that unequal power relations play in environmental decision-making and access to natural resources. Thus, critical thinking, rigorous discussions, and learning to listen openly and without judgment are core to all of the courses that I teach. I also enjoy getting students out on the land as much as possible, because I believe that connecting with the land and its histories fosters a deeper appreciation for place, which can in turn lead to ethical commitments to care for place and one another.


P. Sean McDonald

Lecturer, Environmental Studies
Research Scientist, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

email: psean@uw.edu
office: 015D Wallace Hall
twitter: @pseanmc
website

Courses

Education

  • B.S. Biology, Marine Emphasis, Western Washington University, 1997
  • Ph.D. Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, 2006

Sean is the Capstone instructor for Environmental Studies and maintains an active research program focused on applied marine ecology in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Sean directs the internship activities and senior research of Environmental Studies students. He assists each student in developing an independent scholarly project that dovetails with their hands-on work. The goal is to prepare students for careers in environmentally related fields by aiding them in synthesizing their academic coursework and professional (internship) experience. Sean’s research program focuses on applying ecological principles to problems involving the exploitation, cultivation, and conservation of aquatic species in a changing global landscape. In particular, he is interested in individual and community responses to major agents of ecosystem change, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and nearshore hypoxia.


Eric Morel

Predoctoral Lecturer, Environmental Studies
Doctoral Candidate, Department of English

email: egmorel@uw.edu
office: 015E Wallace Hall

Courses

  • ENVIR 200: Communication for Environmental Studies (Spring Quarter)

Education

  • B.A., English, Davidson College, 2009
  • M.A., English, University of Nevada, Reno, 2012

Eric’s research questions boil down to what, how, and why we read in the face of current environmental challenges. Reading can be taken for granted as a positive behavior, but it is also often discussed as a kind of remove, and being “bookish” is not always a compliment. So, he works across his research and teaching to think about the kinds of reading practices that can link humanistic reflection and public engagement with environmental causes for concern, posing the question: what kinds of bookishness might environmental challenges invite? Eric is working on completing his doctoral dissertation in American literature at UW, and before that he studied at Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Nevada, Reno. Eric’s sections of ENVIR 200 get students to think through conceptions of scale underlying various environmental orientations, which asks students to position themselves amid an array of sympathetic but sometimes competing claims to priority and value. Additionally, he crafts writing assignments that encourage student writers to hone in on their uses of language and logic. Outside of work, Eric loves coffee, music, and hiking—but his interests are many and wide-ranging, so come chat!


Ned Schaumberg

Predoctoral Lecturer, Environmental Studies
TA, English Department

email: schaumeg@uw.edu
office: 015E Wallace Hall
twitter: @MrSchaumberg

Courses

  • ENVIR 200: Communication for Environmental Studies (Fall and Winter Quarter)

Education

  • BA, English, Whitman College
  • MA, English, University of Washington, 2012

Ned’s interests span a variety of areas. His current research focuses on late twentieth-century authors’ efforts to narrate and describe water within their stories in such a way that its “realness” outside of the narrative is apparent. Ned argues these efforts to narrate water and its flow over long periods of time help make its value visible in a way that is otherwise hard or impossible for humans to perceive. In the classroom, Ned strives to help students see the ways conceptions of environment, nature, and environmentalism are culturally rooted, and how cultural understandings of these issues affect the way the issues are studied and addressed politically. Ned also guides students to examine how writing is a process of learning how to think about a particular issue; writing helps students discover what they actually know, think, and can defend.


Kristi Straus

Lecturer, Environmental Studies

email: kmstraus@uw.edu
office: 012F Wallace Hall

Courses

Education

  • B.A. Biology, Colby College, 1998
  • Ph.D. Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, 2010

Kristi is passionate about environmental conservation and effective teaching, and is inspired by UW colleagues doing good work on both fronts.  She loves the excitement and energy of teaching large classes but really values opportunities to get to know students as people—so please visit!  Kristi is deeply invested in sustainability education and wants her students to understand  both current environmental challenges and how to make changes that matter in their own lives and in the world around them. In addition to teaching in Environmental Studies, Kristi researches science education, aiming to understand how to make middle school science more accessible and engaging. Kristi became deeply motivated by sustainability during her two years serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. After serving in the Peace Corps she taught environmental education to elementary and middle school students on both coasts of the US. Kristi also received the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017. 


Yen-Chu Weng

Lecturer, Environmental Studies

email: yweng@uw.edu
office: 015F Wallace Hall
office hours: M 9:30a-11a
website

Courses

Education

  • B.S. Geography, National Taiwan University, 2003
  • M.S. Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005
  • Ph.D. Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011

As a geographer, Yen-Chu has always been interested in exploring the connections between human societies and the environment. She received broad training in both the biophysical sciences and the social sciences and has integrated quantitative, qualitative, and GIS methods into her research projects. Her master’s thesis analyzed the spatio-temporal changes of urban landscape patterns in response to urbanization, with a focus on greenspace conservation. In her doctoral research, she explored different perspectives on ecological restoration from the standpoints of scientists, professional practitioners, and volunteers. Based on case studies from Wisconsin and Michigan, she cross-examined the meanings of science, nature, and participation embedded in restoration ideologies and practices. Yen-Chu enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She contributes to core PoE courses and advises on various Capstone projects.


Elizabeth Wheat

Lecturer, Environmental Studies

email: elizaw@uw.edu
office: 012G Wallace Hall
office hours: F 10:30a-noon

Courses

Education

  • B.S. Biology, Union College, 1998
  • M.A. Education, New York University, 2001
  • Ph.D. Biology, University of Washington, 2010

Elizabeth Wheat is a 2010 recipient of the UW’s Excellence in Teaching Award winner (awarded to only two outstanding graduate teaching assistants each year). In addition to teaching for PoE, her other day job is farming at SkyRoot farms on Whidbey Island. In her spare time she enjoys playing guitar, reading and hanging out with her family.


Associated Faculty

Beth Bryant

Beth Bryant

Affiliate Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs

email: bcbryant@u.washington.edu
website

Courses

  • SMEA/ENVIR 476: Introduction to Environmental Law and Process
  • ENVIR 511/512 Graduate Keystone Adviser

Beth is an environmental law and policy expert specializing in coastal and marine issues.  Her primary research interest is exploring the interface of law, science and policy in environmental management.  She also enjoys analyzing and communicating complex interdisciplinary concepts to diverse audiences.  As an Affiliate Assistant Professor at SMEA, she teaches two popular environmental law courses and serves as a faculty mentor for undergraduate and graduate students.  In her free time, Beth enjoys hiking, swimming, cycling, camping, scuba diving, cooking, and wine tasting with family and friends.


Peter H. Kahn

Professor, Department of Psychology
Professor, School of Environment and Forest Sciences

email: pkahn@uw.edu
website

Courses

  • ENVIR 431: Ecopsychology

Peter H. Kahn, Jr. is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Human Interaction With Nature and Technological Systems (HINTS) Lab. The HINTS Lab seeks to address – from a psychological stance – two world trends that are powerfully reshaping human existence: (1) the degradation if not destruction of large parts of the natural world, and (2) unprecedented technological development, both in terms of its computational sophistication and pervasiveness. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988.


Karen Litfin

Karen Litfin

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

email: litfin@uw.edu
website

Courses

  • POLS/ENVIR 384: Global Environmental Politics
  • POLS/ENVIR 385: Political Ecology of the World Food System

Karen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and author of Ozone Discourses: Science and Politics in Global Environmental Politics and The Greening of Sovereignty in World Politics. In her commitment to integrating the cognitive, emotive, and contemplative approaches to sustainability, Karen takes a “person/planet politics” approach to her research and teaching.  That commitment led her to establish a UW study abroad program to Auroville, an international township in south India. It also led her to visit 14 ecovillages around the world and write a book on her travels—Being the Change: Ecovillage Experiments Around the World (forthcoming.) This short video offers a preview of the book. Always endeavoring to more deeply integrate mind, heart, body and spirit, Karen is helping to start SkyRoot Community on Whidbey Island, where she is joined by farmer and PoE instructor Beth Wheat.


L_NashLinda Nash

Associate Professor, History

email: lnash@uw.edu
website

Courses

  • ENVIR 221/HISTAA 221: US Environmental History

Linda Nash is an historian of the twentieth-century US who focuses on environmental and cultural history.  Her research interests revolve around the questions of how and why different people understand environments and environmental change in the ways that they do, and the larger social and environmental implications of those understandings.  She is particularly interested in how environments themselves shape the production of modern knowledge.  Her book, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge, draws on environmental history and the history of the body to chart the emergence of environmental health as both an object of scientific knowledge and a political and cultural issue across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it has been recognized with several academic prizes.  Her current teaching reflects her interests in the history of disease and environment, technology and technoscientific knowledge, as well her ongoing concern with consumption and consumerism, food and agriculture, and the modern state and environmental politics.


Todd Wildermuth

Lecturer, Environmental Studies
Director of the Environmental Law Program, School of Law

email: toddw2@uw.edu
website

Courses

  • ENVIR 485: Environmental Planning and Permitting in Practice
  • ENVIR 495A: Crimes Against Nature

Before joining the Law School in 2011, Todd was founder of Rabbitbrush Research, a consulting company that provided research and strategic advice to non-profit conservation organizations.  He coordinates the environmental and natural resource law program in the UW School of Law, teaches the School’s doctoral dissertation seminar, and offers various courses in environmental policy. He has published in the fields of ecological economics, land use policy, and environmental history.