People

Charisma Acey PhD is Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, USA. She specializes in local and regional environmental sustainability, with an emphasis on access to water and sanitation, food security, poverty reduction, and collaborative governance. Her work has been featured in journals such as the International Journal of Urban and Regional ResearchLandscape and Urban PlanningLocal Environment, and World Development. Her background includes a career in humanitarian relief and development, with ongoing research projects in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and the United States.

Nikhil Anand is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  He studies cities, read through the lives of urban water.  Having previously studied urban water infrastructures, Nikhil’s new work attends to the ways in which urban rivers and seas are key sites for the making and management of social difference, both in the United States and India. As part of this project, he is currently conducting fieldwork in The Urban Sea in Mumbai, which explores the new imaginaries and practices of planners, fishers and scientists working in the climate changed seas of Mumbai. Dr. Anand has a Masters in Environmental Science from Yale University and a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University.

Diana Bocarejo is a Colombian anthropologist working on socio-environmental issues. Her main contribution lies in analyzing everyday practices and local forms of environmental care as crucial forms of water governance. She analyzes the quests to promote “living waters” by fishermen along the Río Magdalena in Colombia, drawing on their everyday entanglements with water. She uses the idea of enmarañamientos – a Spanish reformulation of entanglement, that emphasizes the movement, the messiness, the knots, the thickets around people’s experiences with the rhythms of water (high and low water levels, fish migration seasons) and water interruptions (infrastructure, violence, mudflows, water floods).

Roderick Coover is an internationally-recognized artist, whose practice spans documentary film and ethnographic visual research, interactive and emergent cinema, virtual reality and digital narrative and poetry. Coover’s most recent work investigates both imagined and actual implications of climate change, and explores how places are perceived, encountered and consumed. Coover is a professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University, where he is also a founding Director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Documentary Arts and Ethnographic Practice. His work is internationally exhibited in art venues and public spaces such as the Venice Biennale, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and Documenta Madrid and he is the 2019 – 2020 PPEH Artist-in-Residence.

Dr. Peter DeCarlo is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, and the Department of Chemistry at Drexel University.  He is also an affiliate of the Urban Health Collaborative in the School of Public Health at Drexel University and an adjunct member of the Center for Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. DeCarlo has a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Colorado, and a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame. He uses state-of-the-art instrumentation to measure the chemical composition of particulates and gases in indoors, outdoors, and in the laboratory to better understand the intersection between energy, air quality, health, and climate impacts of human emissions.  He has made air quality and climate related measurements from planes, trucks, and stationary sites all over the world to better understand direct emissions, sources, and subsequent chemical reactions of pollutants in the atmosphere.  More recently Dr. DeCarlo has begun measuring the relationship between outdoor and indoor air pollutants, to understand transport of outdoor pollutants to the indoor environment, and to identify indoor specific sources such as residual tobacco smoke, and direct human emissions. He also is interested in the intersection of science and policy and was an AAAS Science Policy Fellow at the US EPA working on issues related to clean cookstoves in the developing world and public sharing of environmental data prior to starting his faculty position at Drexel.  Funding for his research comes from the National Science Foundation, Sloan Foundation, Electric Power Research Institute, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Department of Transportation. Dr. DeCarlo has co-authored over 80 peer reviewed publication and has been identified as a highly cited researcher by Clarivate Analytics (2014-2018).  

Professor Bill Dennison is Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).  Bill created the Integration and Application Network (IAN), a collection of scientists interested in solving, not just studying environmental problems. Prior to joining UMCES in 2002, he was involved for ten years with the Healthy Waterways program in Queensland, Australia. Bill was a member of the international Scientific Steering Committee of the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone for six years. Bill was trained as a marine ecologist (M.S. University of Alaska; PhD University of Chicago), but began developing transdisciplinary science skills as a postdoctoral fellow (Stony Brook University and as a faculty at the University of Queensland). At UMCES, Bill and his team of Science Integrators and Science Communicators have pioneered novel science communication techniques, and have trained hundreds of scientists to communicate effectively.  Working with a variety of partners, the IAN team produces environmental report cards around the world (e.g., Chesapeake Bay, Great Barrier Reef, Mississippi River, Long Island Sound, Orinoco River, Guanabara Bay). Bill recently received the inaugural Margaret Davidson Stewardship Award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

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Marianna Dudley is a Lecturer in Environmental Humanities in the University of Bristol’s History Department. Her doctoral research looked at the emergence of military environmentalism in the UK and was published in 2012 (An Environmental History of the UK Defence Estate, Continuum). Since then, she’s worked on more watery topics, including the recreational history of the River Severn and particularly the river’s tidal wave and the surfers who ride it; and the history of renewable energy in the UK, with a focus on wind turbines and wave energy devices – the significant ‘firsts’ of which both occur in the Orkney islands. Winds and waves are powering an ongoing interest in the role of transient environmental forces in history, particularly as a way to think about how people and places respond to environmental change. She co-directs the University of Bristol Centre for Environmental Humanities. 

Elaine Gan is an artist-scholar who works at the intersection of feminist science studies, environmental anthropology, and digital arts and humanities. She is assistant professor/faculty fellow of Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement at New York University, Graduate School of Arts & Science; co-editor of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (Minnesota 2017); and project leader of Multispecies Worldbuilding Lab at NYU.





Sahar Hosseini is an architectural and urban historian, with a particular interest in cities of the Muslim world and the intertwined relationship between their socio-cultural and natural systems. Her doctoral research explored the urban history of seventeenth-century Isfahan (Iran) through the lens of its legendary Zayandehrud River. Generous support from Andrew Mellon Foundation, Society of Architectural Historians, and Golda Meir library, as well as, research fellowships at the New York Botanical Garden and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library have facilitated this line of her research, which is the subject of her ongoing book project. Hosseini’s interest in the landscape and built environment lies in their capacity as informants of the life of the societies that generated, inhabited, and modified the landscape. Recently, in collaboration with the Newest Americans at Rutgers University Newark, she has employed this approach to excavate and present stories about the old industrial town of Newark (New Jersey) as manifested in its natural and made-made environments.  She will continue this line of work in Pittsburgh, where she will be joining University of Pittsburgh’s Department of History of Art and Architecture as an Assistant Professor.

McKay Jenkins is the Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English, Journalism and Environmental Humanities at the University of Delaware. His many articles and books on the relationship between humans and the nonhuman world include, most recently, Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands; ContamiNation: My Quest to Survive in a Toxic World; and  Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the American Diet. He teaches nonfiction writing and environmental journalism, and directs the Environmental Humanities program at the University of Delaware, where he has twice won Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Lalitha Kamath is an urbanist who teaches at the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Trained as an urban planner, her first book was a co-edited volume that focused on a critical exploration of emerging discourses and practices of “citizen participation” that have become part of urban governance reforms in India. Subsequent work has focused on unpacking the politics and uneven impacts of urban reform and infrastructure projects. This has led to deeper inquiry into the violence of becoming urban in the global south. As part of this deeper engagement, she is engaged in ethnographic study of a fishing village on Mumbai’s east coast to understand changing conceptions of habitation and value at the water’s edge.

Scott Gabriel Knowles is Professor and Head of the Department of History, Drexel University.  His work focuses on the history of disaster worldwide. This year he is the co-convener (with Kim Fortun) of the River School, an investigation of the Mississippi River from an Anthropocene studies perspective.  Knowles is a research fellow of the Disaster Research Center of the University of Delaware.  He has previously been a research fellow or visiting faculty member of CIGIDEN/Catolica Chile (2018), KAIST (2017), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (2016), the Rachel Carson Center (2016), and the University of Tokyo (2015).  In 2014 he participated in the Anthropocene Campus of the HKW in Berlin.  Knowles is the author of The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America (2011), and is series co-editor (with Kim Fortun) of “Critical Studies in Risk and Disaster” (UPenn Press).  His work on the history of risk and disaster has appeared in the Natural Hazards Observer, Journal of Policy History, Technology and Culture, and Engineering Studies–he has also written for popular venues such as Slate, Conservation Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Hill.  Knowles is completing a new book titled The United States of Disaster.  Twitter: @USofDisaster Website: https://slowdisaster.com/

Kristina Lyons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and a core member of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. She situates her research at the interfaces of the environmental humanities, feminist and decolonial science studies, socio-ecological justice and experimental ethnography.  She has been awarded the Cultural Horizons Prize by the SCA and the Junior Scholar Award and Rappaport Prize by the A&E section of the American Anthropological Association. Kristina has published articles in Cultural AnthropologyCatalyst: Feminism, TheoryTechnoscience, and the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, among other venues. She is currently revising a manuscript entitled Decomposition as Life Politics for publication with Duke University Press.

Shanai Matteson is an artist, writer, mother, and cultural organizer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She creates public art projects, documentaries, stories, and social spaces to illuminate and transform relationships. Through slow and emergent arts activism, Shanai strives to change the conditions in which we create and collaborate, shifting narrative and culture, and the systems they shape. In her work as a public artist and writer, she documents the people and experiences that move her, creating artwork that honors the complex and reciprocal nature of identity, experience, place, and memory. Shanai is one of the founders and co-directors of Water Bar & Public Studio and has been involved in the development of dozens of other collaborative art and community spaces and projects.

Ben Mendelsohn is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) where his research focuses on the intersections of critical urban studies and documentary practices, especially along the global urban coast. His article, “Making the Urban Coast: A Geosocial Reading of Land, Sand, and Water in Lagos, Nigeria” appears in the December 2018 issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and his public scholarship has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and Public Books. He is currently completing an essay documentary, As If Sand Were Stone, exploring earth moving along New York City’s waterfronts. 

Boris Oicherman A scientist turned an artist turned a museum curator, Boris’s prime interest is in  extremely location- and context-specific collaborative art practices where decisions on subject matter, means and media are direct products of the context. As the Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Art Museum of the University of Minnesota, Boris establishes a new program of artistic engagement with research across disciplines and practices, exploring the potential of artists to become drivers of radical knowledge in the academy. He is the recipient of the Asia Pacific Fellowship of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea (2012); of the Artist in Residence fellowship at the Faculty of Life Sciences in The Hebrew University in Jerusalem (2013-2014), and the Curatorial Research Fellowship of the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (2018).

Nicki Pombier Berger is an oral historian, artist, and educator. She is the founding editor of Underwater New York, an arts project of creative work inspired by the waterways of New York City and the objects submerged within them. Since its founding in 2009, Underwater New York has published the work of over 200 writers, artists and musicians, and has convened dozens of programs bringing audiences to the literal, liminal and imagined edges of all five boroughs of New York City. In 2016, Nicki and UNY were the literary editors of SILENT BEACHES, UNTOLD STORIES: NEW YORK CITY’S FORGOTTEN WATERFRONTS with author Elizabeth Albert. In 2018, Underwater New York partnered with Works on Water to co-host a pilot artists residency on Governors Island, a partnership that continues in 2019. Nicki is an organizing member of Works on Water, a group of artists and curators dedicated to artworks, theatrical performances, conversations, workshops and site-specific experiences that explore diverse artistic investigations of water in the urban environment.    In addition to her work with water, Nicki works at the intersection of oral history, disability, arts and social change. She teaches in the Drama BFA program at The New School University, and offers workshops and presentations to a wide range of audiences on applying oral history in diverse contexts. More about Nicki’s work can be found at www.nickipombierberger.com

Rachel Price is an associate professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University. Her work focuses on Latin American, circum-Atlantic and particularly Cuban literature and culture. She has published two books: The Object of the Atlantic: Concrete Aesthetics in Cuba, Brazil and Spain 1868-1968 (Northwestern University Press, 2014) and Planet/Cuba: Art, Culture, and the Future of the Island (Verso Books, 2015). She is currently working on several projects, including intersections between aesthetics and energy (especially petroleum), and a book-length study rethinking communication technologies and literature in the nineteenth-century slaveholding Iberian Atlantic. In 2015 she organized a conference on Empires, Natural Resource Control, and the Environment. She is an affiliate of the Princeton Environmental Institute, where her fields of interest include natural resource policy in Latin America; oil; environmental humanities; environment and aesthetics.IR

Simon Richter is the Class of 1942 Endowed Term Professor of Germanic Studies. Simon directs the Penn in Berlin and Rotterdam Program, a summer intensive focused on comparative cultures of sustainability in Germany and the Netherlands. He teaches a popular general requirement course called “Water Worlds: Cultural Responses to Sea Level Rise and Catastrophic Flooding.” A current research project is called “Poldergeist: Dutch Responses to Rising Seas and Sinking Cities in the Netherlands, United States, and Indonesia.” As a member of One Resilient Semarang, an international design team, Simon is both participant in and observer of the Dutch-sponsored Water as Leverage for Asian Cities Program. As Poldergeist, he tweets about the complexities of life below sea level and hovers over polders in cities and regions around the world.

Originally trained as an oceanographer and microbial ecologist, Byron P. Sherwood is broadly interested in understanding how the behavior and physiology of microorganisms influences ecosystem function and global biogeochemical cycles. For most of his career, his work took the form of quantifying how microscale interactions between bacteria and dissolved molecules or other microorganisms, for example, scale up to affect the global exchange of carbon (and carbon dioxide) between the ocean and atmosphere. Since joining the Department of Biology at Penn, he has applied a similar systems biology approach to better understand the urban aquascape of Philadelphia and the ecology of human-microbe interactions. How do our actions as individuals and communities influence our neighbors living within aquatic microbial communities, and what are the repercussions of those microbial responses to our actions on parameters such as water quality, ecosystem function, and human health? In collaboration with undergraduate students in the Department of Biology, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, and the Water Center at Penn, his research and teaching efforts are focused on understanding the ecological principles governing microbe-human interactions of urban aquatic ecosystems with an eye toward addressing some of the unique challenges faced by a socioeconomically and culturally diverse urban society.

Rachel Thompson is a musician, filmmaker, and writer currently pursuing a PhD in anthropology at Harvard University. Through textual and cinematic practice, her work has examined cultural and political legacies of colonialism, dynamics of cultural exchange and assimilation, and artistic practice in the wake of political violence. She is the director, writer, and cinematographer of Extinction Number Six (2011), an experimental essay film following an eccentric narrator’s quixotic search for the material traces of Java’s colonial, mystical, and paleontological past, a journey haunted in equal measure by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora and the still murky events of the 1965 Indonesian coup and subsequent anti-communist massacre. Her current research and film projects explore contestations over space and power in Jakarta, longue durée political-ecological entanglements between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and Dutch efforts to broadcast a deeply place-based hydro-expertise to a world increasingly beset with water-related adversities.

Bethany Wiggin is Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH). She is Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature and an affiliated faculty member in the English Department at the University of Pennsylvania. She also regularly teaches on topics including Environmental Humanities theory and practice, cultural and literary translation, and European and American literary and cultural history. She co-organizes the Schuylkill River and Urban Waters Corps, an informal collective of academic, non-profit, civic and community organizations, and co-founded the collaborative public archiving project, Data Refuge

RISING WATERS FELLOWS

Maria Diavolova is a senior from Sofia, Bulgaria. She is studying Architecture in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her senior thesis examines the effects of sea level rise on London’s built environment. Rather than offer a discrete architectural resolution, her research aspires to question and argue against continued construction along London’s floodplains. Maria is a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Fellow of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities. Her Public Engagement strives to bridge two seemingly disparate contexts, London and Philadelphia, by illuminating the underlying systems, which manage and enable one’s daily environment in both contexts.

Jolie Gittleman is a Fine Arts major at Penn, and will be working as a business associate at Wayfair in Boston next year. Some of her past work includes illustrations for research at the Penn Museum and helping to design a book for the Rebel Chefs Cooking Crew run by the Penn Netter Center. In addition, she has recently completed work for a water literacy app with CEET, and is a PPEH fellow. For fun she loves traveling, being outdoors, playing frisbee and watching political satire. She is always seeking out new opportunities to combine design with meaningful projects and research, as is looking forward to what comes after college.

Fiona Jensen-Hitch is a senior from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is studying Anthropology and English (with a concentration in Creative Writing), and minoring in Archaeological Science. She has worked extensively at the Penn Museum in many different capacities, and has held fellowships with the museum, the Wolf Humanities Center, and PPEH. Through PPEH’s Rising Waters Fellowship, she completed a senior thesis in creative writing, focused around an ecopoetical (re)interpretation of Mill Creek in West Philadelphia. 



Abigail McGuckin studies urban water and resilience is in the Urban Studies and Environmental Studies departments at Penn. With support from CURF, the Mellon Humanities, Urbanism and Design Grant, and PPEH, Abigail researches the implications of rising seas and harsher storms on racialized topographies in Philadelphia’s lower southwest neighborhoods as well as on the water sector of Aarhus, Denmark. Though her academic work takes her out of Penn, she stays active on campus as the Water Director for the UN Millennium Fellowship sponsored club Sustainable Solutions and by co-leading Penn Environmental Group.

Rose Nagele will be graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in May with a major in Biology and minor in Creative Writing.  Building on her experiences with biological research and journalism, she strives to incorporate scientific perspectives with dialogues about politics, culture, and the environment.  As a Summer Fellow, Rising Waters Fellow, and Undergraduate Fellow with PPEH, Rose has been examining the influence of the Delaware River on the geophysical, economic, and social evolution of the greater Philadelphia area.



Martin Premoli is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at University of Pennsylvania. His studies are centered on contemporary global anglophone and postcolonial literature. Questions of empire, indigeneity, and environmentalism engage him as a scholar. His dissertation examines literary representations of climate change from the global South and develops a decolonial approach to disaster studies. Martin is a 2018-19 Graduate Fellow of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities, and has been awarded the PPEH Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship for 2019-2020. He holds an MA in English from University of Virginia and has published for Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies and JSAS (Journal of Southern African Studies). 

Luna Sarti is a Ph.D. candidate in Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the shifting cultures and practices of water that bound the Arno river in Tuscany, thus shaping not only the Tuscan landscape but also its history and literature. In her dissertation she analyzes site-specific medieval and early modern conceptions of flooding using a variety of administrative and literary sources in order to discuss if, when, and how flood is to be considered a “natural disaster.” Luna was a 2017-18 PPEH graduate fellow and is currently a member of the Rising Waters Project. She holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of Florence and an MA from SOAS (University of London). Part of her most recent work has been published on the Blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas, for which she serves as a contributing editor.

Anushri Tiwari is an Urban Planner by profession from CEPT University, and is currently a Master’s student of Urban Policy and Governance at Tata Institute of Social Science. Her research project revolves around the Mithi River in Mumbai. This is the very same river which has been demonised as the culprit of the recurring deluge that occurs in the city of Mumbai every year. She aims to go beyond normalized assumptions that we can manage natural resources through narrow technical and unsustainable development practices. For her thesis, she will uncover the different perspectives with which the Mithi River is viewed by different institutions like the urban development authority, Pollution Control Board, Environment Department of the Municipality and others. Through this work, she envisions contributing to the fields of Urban Planning and Governance. Anushri is also interested in data analysis and representation wherein as she puts it “every data has some story to convey.” Through data, she hopes to also learn and convey the unseen and unheard stories of nature.

PERFORMANCES

The Environmental Performance Agency is an artist collective using social and embodied practices to advocate for the agency of all living performers co-creating our environment, specifically through the lens of spontaneous urban plants, native or migrant. EPA agents include andrea haenggi, Christopher Kennedy, Ellie Irons, Catherine Grau.


Header image © Roderick Coover