B.A. Colby College Art History and American Studies
M.S. University of Montana Environmental Science
M.A. UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education
Ph.D Candidate UC Berkeley Environmental Science Policy and Management
environmental history, political ecology, race, resilience, nature-society interactions, local ecological knowledge (LEK)
I am an environmental social scientist and historian who incorporates interdisciplinary theories and methods from environmental history, political ecology and critical human geography. In addition to my history of applied and engaged activism within and outside of the academy, I have worked professionally as a journalist, documentary film-maker, campaign organizer, college instructor and organization leader.
At a broad scale, my research focuses on several topics: a critical history of national parks and wilderness, race and identity, nature-society interactions, local ecological knowledge, and human dimensions of climate change. During my time in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias Park over the past decade, I have incorporated a fine-grained ethnographic and participatory research approach, using a combination of structured and unstructured interviews, participant observation and extensive archival research. Drawing on literature in political ecology, environmental history and human geography, my dissertation, “From Copper to Conservation: Mining for Narratives Within and Beyond Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve,” examines how conflicting narratives at local and national scales influence and interfere with management strategies. I am particularly interested in how the benefits and burdens of the outcomes of these conflicts are spread across different sectors of people living within the 23-resident zone communities of the park in relation to race, gender and economic status and they ways in which people are resisting these outcomes.
Recent scholarship has cautioned about the need to be careful about using resilience models as a stand-alone model to understand the dynamic interaction between socio and ecological systems (SES). These models often under theorize political economic and historic factors in addressing vulnerability. In order to better engage with questions of social difference and inequality, I focus on the important role of the interaction of local and national narratives as one set of interrelated actors that have not been adequately addressed by economic and scientifically driven management models alone. I argue that these narratives have an influence on knowledge production that stands aside from traditional “variables” in management models. In particular, the way people make sense of the non-human world through narrative offers information researchers may not gather entirely through modeling, advanced technology or scientific analysis.
Peer Review Publications:
- 2014 Higgins, M. Contributing to Alaska Communities by Cultivating Local Monitoring for National Park Management. Journal of Research Practice. Accepted
- 2014 Diver, S. and Higgins, M. Giving Back Through Collaborative Research: Towards a Practice of Dynamic Reciprocity. Journal of Research Practice. Accepted
- 2014 Higgins, M. "Beyond Copper and Conservation: Mining for New Imaginaries in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve," book chapter in the edited volume Critical Norths: Space, Nature, Theory. University of Alaska Press, Edited by Kevin Maier and Sarah Ray. Accepted
Technical Reports and Other Publications:
- 2011 “Opportunities for Developing Phenology-based Climate Change Interpretive Education, and Citizen Science Programs in California National Parks: A Survey of Current Park Resources and Capacity for Implementation,” co-author National Park Service Report. Available online: https://www.usanpn.org/cpp/sites/www.usanpn.org.cpp/files/pdfs/CPPPhenoO...
- 2010 “Nature Bridge Teacher Training Program Evaluation Report,” contributing author, Stanford University. Available online: http://www.oregoncf.org/Templates/media/files/enviro_ed
- 2003 “Agriculture-Related Environmental Indicators,” Missoula Community Food Assessment; the University of Montana.
- 2003 “Environmental Connections to Breast Cancer,” Women’s Voices for the Earth report.
- 2006 “Caught in the Headlights,” co-producer, High Plains Films (54 minutes, color) Premiered at the International Wildlife Film Festival, May 2006. Excerpt available online: http://www.highplainsfilms.org/hpf/films/caught_in_the_headlights
- 2004 “Street Denizens,” co-producer, High Plains Films (14 minutes, color)
Premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, February 2005.
Excerpt available online: http://www.bigskyfilmfest.org/bsdff/archives/archived_films/street_deniz...
- Staff Writer for the Times News, Twin Falls, ID (1998-99)
- Staff Writer for the Environmental News Network, Sun Valley, ID (1999-2001)
- Freelanced for a number of publications including Camas, The Missoula Independent, Sun Valley Art, Sun Valley Magazine, and online publications including, National Geographic , CNN, Utne Reader and Intellectual Capitol.
- 2015 UC Berkeley ESPM Departmental Fellowship
- 2014 UC Berkeley Schwabacher Fellowship
- 2013 UC Berkeley Teagle Fellowship, Berkeley Teaching and Learning Center
- 2012-13 National Park Service George Melendez Wright Society Fellowship
- 2012-13 Murie Science and Learning Center Graduate Fellowship
- 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor
- 2012 UC Berkeley Frank Myers Scholarship in Forestry
- 2012 Emerging Scholar Award, Alaska Historical Society
- 2010 USDA Forest Service Participatory Research Fellowship
- 2009 Bergen Summer Research Fellowship on Climate Change, Bergen, Norway
- 2004-5 High Plains Films Documentary Film Fellowship
- 2004 University of Montana Outstanding Environmental Activism Fellowship
- 2001 Scripps Institute for Environmental Journalism Fellowship
- ESPM Pedagogy Course for Graduate Student Instructors, "Teaching as a Lifelong Experience," UC Berkeley Fall 2012 and 2013
- Americans and the Global Forest, UC Berkeley, Spring 2012
- U.S. Environmental and Cultural History, UC Berkeley, Fall 2011
- Introduction to Environmental Studies, UC Berkeley, Fall 2009
- Introduction to Biology Field Course, UC Berkeley, Spring 2009, 2010 and 2011.
- How Would Nature Do That? Innovation Inspired by Nature (Bio 296), UC Berkeley, Fall 2009 (co-developed and launched the course)
- Wildlands Studies Field Instructor, Wrangell St-Elias National Park and Preserve 2005 and 2006.
- Transboundary Environmental Issues, graduate field course in environmental studies, University of Montana 2004