Spring 2009
Volume 20, Issue 1
See the Table of Contents below ("In This Issue") and click on the article that you wish to read. When you finish an article, scroll back up to the Table of Contents and click on the next article that you wish to read.
In This Issue
Column: From ASEH's New President
Column: The Profession (ASEH Rules on Paper Presentations)
2009 Election Results
ASEH Award Recipients 2009
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2009 - First Notice
Reflections on Sustainability from Tallahassee
Tallahassee Conference Photos
Report from Tallahassee: ASEH Meets with Local High School Students
Outreach Activities at ASEH
Volunteering Opportunities at ASEH
President's Column
First Thoughts
By Harriet Ritvo
I have been told that it is customary to use my first message as president to set forth my initiatives for ASEH, but that feels like too strong a word.  Like most members, I have benefitted greatly from the exchanges it sponsors, whether in its publications (paper and electronic) or at the annual meetings.  It seems to me that the first concern of the society should be to insure that members continue to enjoy and appreciate their membership.
That, of course, may be easier said than done. On the most practical level, operating a small to medium-sized society, with a tiny though extremely talented and dedicated staff, presents many challenges. Even in ordinary times, as the Red Queen demonstrated to Alice, it may be necessary to run in order to stay in place.  And, as we are all well aware from our own experience and observation, these are not ordinary times.  The financial pressures on individual members and on academic institutions are apt to trickle down (or over) to professional societies like the ASEH.  Attending the forthcoming meetings in Portland and Phoenix may represent a more significant commitment than has been the case in the recent past; the society may have to work harder to find support for new outreach and other initiatives.
The scholarly growth that has been one of the strengths of the ASEH also poses potential problems. Our members have become increasingly diverse in terms of their research topics and even their disciplinary affiliations.  It will be necessary to strike a balance between accommodating this proliferation of interests and maintaining the core intellectual focus that unites us.To put it another way, our differences should produce exchange rather than fragmentation.
One obvious axis of increased variation has been geographical. There is a theoretical sense in which environmental history might be less constrained by human boundaries, whether political, cultural, or linguistic, than is the case with other historical subdisciplines, but of course this theory is not borne out in practice. An overwhelming majority of ASEH members specialize in the environmental history of a single nation (most often the United States), and it is obviously useful to see how similar issues evolve in other settings. Perhaps less obviously, geographical variation among historians can be as illuminating as geographical diversity among their subjects; we are products of our locations, as well as of our training.
I am writing this in England, where I have just had the rewarding experience of talking about Manchester with a group of Mancunians, and talking about the Lake District with scholars actively concerned with its conservation as a historical landscape. Such alternative perspectives cast new light even on shared expertise.  For some time, ASEH meetings have attracted an impressive number of international scholars.  I look forward to their continued engagement with the society, especially at a time when increasing public awareness of global environmental problems makes the need for a usable past especially urgent.
The Profession
ASEH Rules on Paper Presentations: A Note from Program Committee Chairs

The ASEH has become one of the most dynamic history meetings.  We have much to be proud of, yet in recent years there have also been incidents of panelists, commentators, and chairs disregarding the basic rules of professional comportment.  The ASEH is not unique in this respect.  Linda Kerber's columns on "Conference Rules" in the May 2008

September 2008 and October 2008
issues of Perspectives suggest the ubiquity of these problems.  Those columns are timely reading for new and seasoned members alike.  We can all forget that the opportunity to speak comes with duties as well.
Two years ago the ASEH's Executive Committee advised presenters, commentators, and chairs to manage presentations so audiences have at least thirty minutes for their own thoughts.  This is not going well.  We all rarely account for the predictable inefficiencies of panels.  Even if all else goes right, introductions and transitions between papers, including syncing computers and queuing PowerPoints, all chew up time.  The upshot is that the formula of each presenter taking fifteen minutes (1825  words) and the comment another ten minutes typically overshoots the time budget by five and even ten or more minutes.  Four-paper panels are structurally incapable of keeping within the time limit unless each paper runs less than twelve minutes (1500 words).
In reality things rarely go right.  Panels do not start on time.  Presenters miscalculate their papers, stumble over awkward text, and ad lib, all of which lead to talks that run eighteen, twenty or more minutes.  Computers do not cooperate.  Chairs lose control.  And commentators, even when they do not abuse the panel or audience, run long because they get to the dais so late.  A successful panel requires that we all hit our marks and not wing it.  Thus a few gentle reminders.  Remember to write for the spoken word, to read papers aloud beforehand, and to use a timer.  Proposers please remember the constraints on four-paper panels, and everyone please think twice about formal comments.  Audiences usually have very enlightening responses.
The remedies are simple and simply require a bit more forethought on all our parts.  Our most successful moments have always been at sessions where panelists and audiences engage as constructive and equal partners in intellectual exchanges.
Michael Lewis, 2009 ASEH Program Chair
Lynne Heasley, 2008 ASEH Program Chair
David Louter, 2007 ASEH Program Chair
Kathryn Morse, 2006 ASEH Program Chair
Joseph Taylor, 2005 ASEH Program Chair
Nancy Langston, 2004 ASEH Program Chair
For 2010 Program Chair D.C. Jackson's current instructions for submitting proposals for our 2010 conference, click here.

ASEH Sponsors Symposium at ESA Meeting
ASEH has endorsed a symposium at this year's annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, which is to be held in Albuquerque, NM, 2-7 August 2009. The session titled "'Declaring Interdependence': Concerned Ecological Thinkers of the Past" has been co-organized by Julianne Warren and Daniel Simberloff. It is scheduled to take place from 8:00 -11:00am on 4 August 2009. Participants will discuss the work of key historic ecological thinkers--including Victor Shelford, Aldo Leopold, Charles Elton, Rachel Carson, and Frank Egler--who in their lifetimes were concerned about human-induced ecological changes. Speakers will address how, why, and with what effect each attempted to engage the public with relevant ecological knowledge hoping to help bring human behaviors into better concert with nature's workings. They will discuss and interact with attendees about how lessons from the past might be applied to promoting a global sustainable society today. Please contact Julianne Lutz Warren at for further information.
H-Environment Editors Wanted
H-Environment, the listserv that serves the broader environmental history community, is looking for three additional editors:  a list editor, a web editor, and a book review editor. The list editor handles general postings to the list, but shares responsibility with four other list editors.  The web editor requires only a few hours per year to update the H-Environment website and to post environmental history syllabi.  The book review editor is flexible in terms of hours, but probably takes about an hour per week.  Queries should be sent to H-ENVIRONMENT-request@H-NET.MSU.EDU
Fellowships and Funding
Click here for information about ASEH's Samuel Hays and Hal Rothman Fellowships.
Click here for information about travel grants to our Portland Conference in 2010.
Click here for information on summer fellowships available at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
Click here for information on fellowships at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich.
Click here for information for two-year graduate student position researching Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.
2009 Election Results

Congratulations to the following individuals, who were elected in 2009, and began their terms of office on March 1.


John McNeill, Vice-President/President Elect

Mark Madison, Treasurer
Ellen Stroud, Secretary
Executive Committee:
Marcus Hall
Tina Loo
Linda Nash
Gregg Mitman
Nominating Committee:
Alan MacEachern
Kathryn Morse
ASEH is grateful to the following individuals, who rotated off the executive committee and nominating committee in February 2009:
Kathleen Brosnan
Katherine Morrissey
Carolyn Merchant
Adam Rome
Melissa Wiedenfeld
Verena Winiwarter
ASEH Award Recipients 2009
Congratulations to this year's award recipients!
Environmental History editor Mark Cioc presented the Leopold-Hidy award to Nancy Langston (see below). Photos courtesy Steve Anderson and Lisa Mighetto.
The following prizes were awarded in Tallahassee:
Martin Melosi was awarded the Distinguished Service Award. 

Thomas Andrews was awarded the George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best book for

Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War (Harvard University Press).


Paul Sutter was awarded the Alice Hamilton Prize for the best article outside Environmental History for "Nature's Agents or Agents of Empire? Entomological Workers and Environmental Change during the Construction of the Panama Canal" in Isis 98 (2007).
Nancy Langston
was awarded the Leopold-Hidy Prize for the best article in Environmental History for "
The Retreat from Precaution: Regulating Diethylstilbestrol (DES), Endocrine Disruptors, and Environmental Health" (January 2008 issue).

Carol Kieko Matteson was awarded the Rachel Carson Prize for the best dissertation for "'Masters of Their Woods:' Conservation, Community, and Conflict in Revolutionary France, 1669-1848" (Yale University). 

Click here to read the comments of the evaluation committees on these awards.
Thomas Andrews (pictured above) and Marty Melosi (pictured right) received awards in Tallahassee.
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2009 - First Notice

This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009. Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 6, 2009 to:


Lisa Mighetto

c/o Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program

University of Washington

1900 Commerce Street

Tacoma, WA  98402

Reflections on Sustainability from Tallahassee
By Michael Egan
Over the past several years, Michael Smith and others have been urging the ASEH membership to think more explicitly about the society's sustainability practices.  Prior to our Tallahassee meeting, the executive committee drafted new sustainability guidelines - and during the Thursday morning in Tallahassee, Adam Sowards, Jody Roberts, Wyatt Galusky, and I convened an open forum to allow attendees to voice their opinions about the guidelines and to provide insight.  Below is a very brief synopsis of the main points raised during our unstructured conversation.
1. There was much talk about what "sustainability" meant and worry that the term is frequently too vague to be useful.  One participant suggested that "green practices" might be a more appropriate term, which seems to
encapsulate much of what the guidelines seek to address.
2. There seemed to be considerable interest in publishing more information about the carbon footprint our meeting uses.  How many cumulative miles did we travel to get to the meeting?  How much water, electricity, etc. does the hotel consume because of us?  One participant felt that members should tabulate their mileage as part of a self-awareness campaign.  This was met with some skepticism, but the general tenor of the discussion seemed to think that more understanding of just what the conference "costs" would be a good piece of information to make available to members.  
3. We also discussed sites for the conference.  Hubs, which reduced travel, were thought to be a good idea (though the hotels there will likely be more expensive), and finding more regular sites was also discussed (though this could put a strain on local arrangements members).  It wasn't clear how we could balance travel costs for members if the conference met in just a few locations (Chicago, Denver, Austin, for example).  And we also brought up the prospect of local conferences every other year.  I think the problem there is that many of us don't work on local topics, and that makes less sense for many of us (having an ASEH lite).  There did seem to be some consensus regarding Bill Cronon's point in the business meeting that the annual meeting is very important on so many levels.
4. Finally, a very good idea raised toward the end of the time we had available suggested inviting local sustainability groups to lead workshops at the conference.  Portland's local food network or recycling programs might provide us with good ideas going forward and our moving around the country could serve as the beginnings of a dialogue between different communities.
What became apparent over the course of the session was that many members are keen to participate in making ASEH conferences more green.  Many more not in attendance, I'm sure, feel similarly.  It might be worth pointing out that this conversation might be productively continued on the ASEH website's "Sustainability Forum":
Click here to read ASEH's Sustainability/Green Practices Guidelines, approved by our Executive Committee on February 28, 2009.
Tallahassee Conference Photos
More than 500 people attended ASEH's annual conference in Tallahassee,
Florida. Scroll down for photos.
Photos courtesy Merritt McKinney, Lisa Mighetto, Emily Pawley, and Emily Wakild.
The kayaking trip got rave reviews.
 The birders stop for a group shot. Highlights included anhingas.

The conference included a graduate student reception
(three images below) on the pool deck.
Students win books in raffle.

Posing on the pool deck.
Exhibit area.
Exhibit area.
In between sessions at the
Environmental Justice workshop.
President Nancy Langston (below) after delivering an address "Paradise Lost: Global Warming and Environmental History."
President's lunch banquet.
Thank You
We are grateful to the Tallahassee team:
Program Committee:
Michael Lewis, Salisbury University, Chair
Mark Barrow, Viriginia Tech
Laurel Braitman, MIT
Fritz Davis, Florida State University
Sylvia Hood Washington, University of Illinois-Chicago
Local Arrangements Committee:
Fritz Davis, Florida State University, Chair
Ronald Doel, Florida State University
Kristine Harper, Florida State University
Jennifer Koslow, Florida State University
Richard Mizelle, Florida State University
Jon Anthony Stallins, Florida Stave University
Special thanks to the team of graduate students that worked at the registration desk and exhibit area!
ASEH Meets with Local High School Students in Tallahassee
Tarpon, Coffee, and Elephants: Tallahassee High School Students Explore Environmental History at the ASEH Conference
By Aaron Shapiro, Chair, Education Committee
A grant from the Leon County Schools Foundation enabled ASEH to bring 40 local high school students from Sail High School and Florida A&M University's Developmental Research School to the annual conference in Tallahassee on Thursday afternoon, February 26. Students participated in a session at the Challenger Center and several remained afterward to tour the book exhibit. The ASEH Diversity Committee worked with Dr. Richard Gragg and FAMU to set up the event and the ASEH Outreach and Education Committees collaborated in developing an interactive program that fostered discussion among scholars, teachers, and students about environmental history.
Students and panelists discussed numerous questions, including: What is environmental history and why is it significant? What kinds of records do historians and scientists utilize and where do they find them? What careers are available in this field and how can students prepare? How are students involved in their communities and how might their activities draw on environmental history? These questions presented jumping-off points for a range of presentations by several ASEH conference attendees that involved in-depth discussions with students.
Kevin Kokomoor of Florida State University discussed his conference poster on Florida tarpon fishing, explaining the research that went into developing an effective poster presentation. In addition to leaving them enthralled with the sheer size of tarpon, Kevin's presentation led students to discuss the role of sport fishing in reducing the tarpon population. Megan Jones of the University of Delaware placed youth working in the outdoors in historical perspective, speaking about the history of the Student Conservation Association and Youth Conservation Corps.
This led students to explore their involvement in various community-based projects. Kate Christen of the Smithsonian Institution spoke about her involvement in documenting efforts to study and preserve elephant populations, demonstrating how thinking like an environmental historian can be particularly useful in non-history settings. Vicki Breting-Garcia discussed how her high school in Houston has integrated environmental history and environmental justice not just into the curriculum but also into the mission of the school.  Aaron Shapiro of Auburn University discussed ideas for place-based history projects that integrate environmental and public history in the classroom, particularly by looking at one's community and the relationships among history, memory, and local landscapes. Stuart McCook of the University of Guelph kept everybody alert and awake with his discussion on the environmental history of coffee and other breakfast-table commodities.  Thankfully, no one left hungry or thirsty after his presentation since it followed a short break in which students enjoyed cookies, fruit, and beverages.
As a result of the short lead time between receiving the grant and implementation, the Education and Outreach committees worked quickly to coordinate activities with the teachers.  Now we are collaborating with these Tallahassee teachers to build upon the discussion session, through efforts to integrate session materials into classroom activities and to help students explore meaningful environmental history projects in their communities. Our committees are interested in working with ASEH members interested in reaching high school students in the communities where we hold future conferences (and elsewhere, too). With more time for advance planning and the potential to engage local teachers well ahead of conference dates, we'd like to hear from membership about ways to improve such programs at Portland and beyond. We invite you to participate in this discussion. Please feel free to contact Aaron Shapiro (, Education Committee Chair, or Kate Christen (, Outreach Committee Chair, with your thoughts and ideas. 
Outreach Activities at ASEH
By Kate Christen, Chair, Outreach Committee
The full story goes this way: ASEH outreach happens every day in many places, as individual ASEH members undertake diverse EH-related activities in their universities, allied professional societies, local communities, and field research sites--to name just a few venues. That means any back issue of this newsletter will offer you ideas and inspiration for environmental history outreach activities that might suit your own EH outreach interests and purposes. Noted here are a few ASEH Outreach Committee activities of this past year; you'll notice a common theme of collaborative endeavors among this committee, other ASEH committees, and other professional groups.
The Outreach Committee is facilitating formal ASEH association with organized sessions at upcoming allied professional meetings. We helped arrange ASEH endorsement of  a symposium at the 2009 Ecological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting, " 'Declaring Interdependence': Concerned Ecological Thinkers of the Past", co-organized by ASEH member Julianne Warren and Dan Simberloff, our 2009 Plenary Speaker at Tallahassee.  See "Announcements" in this issue for more details.
Our committee also helped arrange ASEH co-sponsorship of a proposed graduate student panel at the 2010 American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in San Diego, "Transforming Identities: Youths Encountering Nature in Twentieth-Century North America," focused on historical case studies of the transformative power of nature for adolescents. Panelists are ASEH members Jess Dunkin, Neil P. Buffet, and Megan Jones; Jones also organized the panel.  We are also working on future possibilities for formal joint activities between ASEH and SCB, the Society for Conservation Biology.
We welcome inquiries about similar endorsements/sponsorships/joint activities at other scholarly meetings, and we are exploring the possibility of allied-society-sponsored panels at upcoming ASEH conferences. Similarly, if you have ideas about applying for grants through ASEH for ASEH-sponsored or co-sponsored outreach projects, please contact Lisa Mighetto ( or Kate Christen ( For some ideas along these lines, you might review the 2007 Baton Rouge conference's NSF-funded Toxic Bodies/Toxic Environment Interdisciplinary Workshop, which brought together historians, scientists, and activists. Click here for records on our 2007 conference.
At Tallahassee 2009, The Outreach Committee joined forces with the ASEH Education Committee to provide an interactive EH program to 40 local Tallahassee high school students on February 26, in a project originated by the ASEH Diversity Committee.  More details about that lively event are found in Aaron Shapiro's article above.  
Kate Christen, Outreach Committee Chair, joined about 400 other humanities advocates to represent ASEH at the National Humanities Alliance's (NHA) 2009 Conference and Advocacy Day, "Making the Case for the Humanities," March 10-11, in Washington DC. As NHA Executive Director Jessica Jones Irons reflected, the participants "articulated a clear demand for an enlarged role for the humanities in our nation's educational, economic, scientific, and civic spheres" during panel sessions, symposia, and congressional visits. Check out all the meeting materials in the Humanities Advocacy Day Sourcebook, at There you'll find links to the "Humanities Indicators," a new web-based collection of data on research, funding, and expressions of the humanities in primary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate education, in the workforce, and in American life (see These collected data provide new tools for humanities-related planning, decision-making, and advocacy.
A special note to Washington, DC-area ASEH members and others planning to spend some time in this nation's capital: NHA and the ASEH Outreach Committee are interested in facilitating your involvement in "Congressional Briefings" for Members of Congress and their staff on current policy issues related to your area(s) of environmental history expertise.  Please contact me (at if you are interested in participating in this kind of influential outreach activity.
Volunteering Opportunities at ASEH
Are you interested in serving the profession and working with your friends and colleagues at ASEH? Our committees offer a wide range of activities, summarized below.
ASEH President Harriet Ritvo will appoint new committee members in early April - and we are grateful to many people who have already volunteered to serve on a committee in 2009. If you would like to serve on a committee and have not yet contacted us, please contact
Site Selection Committee. This committee solicits and evaluates proposals for hosting ASEH's annual conference. Here is your chance to influence location and local arrangements for ASEH's meetings.
Program Committee. This committee shapes the intellectual content of our annual conference by evaluating proposals, creating sessions, and arranging speakers for special events.
Awards Committees. These committees evaluate submissions and select recipients for ASEH's annual awards for best book, article (outside Environmental History), and dissertation.
Fellowship Committees. These committees evaluate submissions and select recipients for the Samuel Hays and Hal K. Rothman Fellowships.
Outreach Committee. This committee's activities include facilitating ASEH-sponsored panels at other conferences. Examples include the Ecological Society of America, Society for Conservation Biology, and American Historical Association. Recently, its members coordinated with the Education and Diversity Committees for events at our annual conference in Tallahassee, and currently they are considering organizing a congressional briefing (see article above).
Education Committee. This committee focuses on environmental history and K-12 education. Recent activities include bringing a local teacher to our conference in Boise in 2008, and facilitating a meeting and discussion with local high school students at our conference in Tallahassee in 2009. This committee also oversees the production of teaching units on our website. Click here for examples.
Publications Committee. This committee consults with the editor, editorial board, Forest History Society, and others to develop policies for our journal, Environmental History.  It also works with publishers and historians to market scholarship and organizes sessions and workshops at our annual conference. Recently this committee assisted with posting of back issues of our journal online.
Diversity Committee. This committee is dedicated to raising awareness of diversity issues and building diversity within the ASEH and in the field of environmental history. Recently, its members organized a two-day environmental justice workshop in Tallahassee that brought together historians, other scholars, and activists and included a GIS training session related to a local project.
ASEH is considering forming a Sustainability Commitee.
ASEH's Executive and Nominating Committees are elected by the members. Our next election is scheduled for 2011 -  and, as always, we will post Calls for Nominations several months ahead of time.
ASEH News is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.
  • Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President
  • John McNeill, Georgetown University, Vice President/President Elect 
  • Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
  • Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary
Executive Committee:
  • Marcus Hall, University of Utah 
  • Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
  • Nancy Jacobs, Brown University
  • Tina Loo, University of British Columbia
  • Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Linda Nash, University of Washington-Seattle
  • Mark Stoll, Texas Tech University

Ex Officio, Past Presidents:

  • Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
  • Douglas Weiner, University of Arizona

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:

  • Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma 
Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:
  • Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz

ASEH Annual Conference,
Portland, Oregon, March 10-14, 2010

Our next conference will take place in Portland, Oregon, in a spacious hotel located downtown, near many restaurants, historic districts, and a river walk. Click here for Portland Call for Papers (due June 30, 2009).
Click here for instructions for submitting proposals for papers, panels, roundtables, and posters.
Travel grants available - Click here to learn more.
Our conference will include a floating seminar on the Willamette River and field trips exploring Columbia River dams, urban parks, local food networks, a bicycling tour, and more. Click here for additional info. 

Quick Links

1st World Congress of Environmental History
Copenhagen, Denmark
Click here for more info.
Podcasts from ASEH's Tallahassee conference will be available in mid-April. Click here for more info.

ASEH Website

Click here to add your info. to our Directory of Members and Experts.

Click here to view our new poll.


This newsletter is a quarterly publication of the American Society for Environmental History. If you have questions, or if you would like to submit an article or announcement, contact Lisa Mighetto, editor, at
The deadline for the summer issue is June 12, 2009.

From Our Members

From Bill Cronon
Announcing a new website on Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer for Environmental Historians and OthersClick here to view the website. Click here for the story of how the website was created.
ASEH member Joy Parr sent this image of the spring poppies below from Grand-Metis, Lower Saint Lawrence.
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