Laura Jane Martin

leaves in a pool

Environmental STS

Today billions of dollars are spent on ecological restoration – on projects such as invasive species removal, reforestation, wetlands construction, and the rehabilitation of threatened species. My dissertation investigates the history of ecological restoration as a practice and an idea. Through archival research, I trace how ideas about ecological communities have changed from the 1930s to the present, and how these changes have affected natural resources management in the United States. I articulate the historical relationships among ecologists (Aldo Leopold, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Eugene and Tom Odum, and others), federal agencies (such as the Atomic Energy Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service), and environmental organizations (such as the Nature Conservancy and the Society for Ecological Restoration). My articulation emphasizes ecological fieldwork, the effect of nuclear technologies on perceptions of the environment, and the means by which ecologists established their expertise.

Most broadly, I am interested in how cultural values, scientific knowledge, and political economies intersect to shape environmental management and the physical environment itself. My work places me at the intersection of Science & Technology Studies and Environmental History. An interest in species drives both my historical and my scientific research.

My dissertation research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Cornell Society for the Humanities, and the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences.

Conservation Ecology

My ecological research explores local adaptation in plants and the ecological consequences of intraspecific variation. Conducted mainly in wetlands of the northeastern United States, this research is aimed at informing ecological restoration. I am a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the laboratory of Clifford Kraft.

In 2012 I co-organized an Ecological Society of America Emerging Issues Conference, "Developing ecologically based conservation targets under global change." Since then, I have participated in the Global Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network Group on Terrestrial Species Monitoring, funded by the UN Environment Programme, the European Commission, NASA, and others. I am broadly interested in how the use of geographical frameworks, e.g. continents, biomes, or anthromes, shapes ecological knowledge.