Laura Jane Martin

leaves in a pool

Projects in Environmental STS & Applied Ecology

I study ecological management, its material and intellectual history, and the history of its environmental impact.

In my dissertation I trace the history of ecological restoration as an idea and a practice in the United States between 1930 and 1975. I articulate historical relationships among a number of individuals and organizations, including Aldo Leopold, Paul B. Sears, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Eugene Odum, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and The Nature Conservancy. My analytical framework emphasizes the dynamics between ideational and material change. This work places me at the intersection of Science & Technology Studies and Environmental History.

I pose the question of how restoration became such a pervasive practice, and in answering I explore ecological fieldwork, the effect of nuclear technologies on perceptions of the environment, and the means by which ecologists established their expertise. This 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.

I came to my dissertation research through work in applied ecology. My research in New York State wetlands reframed those physical environments for me and prompted my investigation of how a culture’s perceptions of landscapes and environmental practices develop. I continue to work in the discipline of applied ecology. 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 and have researched how the use of geographical frameworks (e.g. continents, biomes, or anthromes) shapes ecological knowledge.