I was born and raised in southwestern Montana, and grew up roaming my native hills alongside a menagerie of creatures (most notably my canine partner in crime, Rosie). My scientist-and-rancher parents taught me to respect animals, plants, other humans, insects, even rocks and creeks—every thing had a story, a personality, a life all its own. And those stories were fascinating. Childhood exploring became adult exploring, leading to (mis)adventures all across the Northern Hemisphere.
I learned to love human stories, too: music, art, history, literature. I found human expression profoundly beautiful. Acting and writing taught me the power of words. Traveling abroad rekindled my childhood passion for myth. In college, I impulsively registered for a religious studies course; I was hooked instantly. Shortly thereafter, I abandoned my acting career to formally study human belief systems.
I received my BA from Montana State University Bozeman, where I majored in religious studies with minors in English writing and literature. My research here in Utah will examine the confluence of spirituality and ecology, with a particular focus on spiritual narratives surrounding waterways. I'm also interested in artistic expressions of spiritual belief, and how such expressions can be used as a form of public discourse.
Rune Davino-Collins (they/them)
I was raised all my life in the woodlands of northern Westchester county, New York (Kitchawank band Wappinger and other Munsee-speaking homelands) and spent much of my formative childhood years alone in the forest that surrounded my apartment complex, an old converted dairy farm. Far from the Muir model of pristine wilderness, those woods held an archive of their collaborations with local humans stretching further back than my little eyes could comprehend. I spent long days making up stories about the people who must have slept on that rotting mattress, who crashed that dirtbike. My woods felt no less magical for all the trash they contained; they also gave me the first destroying-angel mushroom (Amanita bisporigera) I ever saw, they showed me how fern leaves have a spiral grain that you can reveal by stripping them off the stem from the roots upward in your palm. My wooded friends were playmates and mentors.
Years later, I rediscovered the playfulness that grounded me in the world when I attended Purchase College SUNY for my anthropology degree. There, I turned the exploration of posthuman and ecological thought into a homebrewed tabletop roleplaying game, in which my players and I engaged with the histories, ecologies, and politics of a fictional world to grow as scholars and friends.
Here at the Environmental Humanities program, I hope to bring playfulness, games, and wonder into my environmental/social advocacy, and take cues for action and care from models of symbiotic and distributed ecological relations like lichens, clonal aspen ecosystems, and mycorrhizal fungi.
I graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in history and archaeology. Since that time, I have worn many hats: vagrant cyclist, social studies teacher, climate activist, rural library branch manager, copy editor at a local newspaper, and more. I am currently interested in exploring how historical and archaeological perspectives can help frame secular eschatologies of ecological collapse. In particular, I seek to critically interrogate the relationships between environmental degradation, violence, and social change.
Esther Mathieu (she/they)
I come to Utah from the tidal estuaries of the waterlogged East Coast, a born and raised New Yorker. After a brief stint at City College in the Macaulay Honors College and the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, I transferred to Colby College, retaining my passion for design but intent to focus on a more interdisciplinary education. At Colby, I designed and graduated with honors in an independent major in Environmental Planning, Media, and Design, which drew from the Environmental Studies, Creative Writing, and Studio Art departments to examine the place of art, design, and literature in environmental changemaking. While I was in school, my first poetry collection, Constellations, was published with Hunt & Light. My photography capstone, displayed along with other seniors’ work in the Colby Musem of Art, was a series of cyanotype self-portraits examining the ways in which mental illness shapes my understanding of and interaction with the world.
After graduating in 2017, I spent some time at the International WELL Building Institute, first as a Research Intern in Standard Development, and later as a Content Marketing Intern. Most recently, I’ve spent the last three and a half years at Patagonia’s Meatpacking District Store, working as a Retail Team Lead and In-Store Environmental Coordinator, heading our store’s environmental efforts, including grants, volunteering, donations, and events. Towards the end of my time at Patagonia, I participated in the LGBT Community Group, worked with the editorial staff to write a history and land acknowledgement (written with direct instruction from the American Indian Law Alliance) for the new Brooklyn store and a history for the forthcoming Baltimore store, and served on the Vision Working Group, a committee of 11 employees selected from across the company to facilitate the creation of Patagonia’s justice and antiracism vision for the next five years.
I come to the Environmental Humanities program excited to invest deeply in my artistic and research interests and to be in community with other interdisciplinary thinkers dedicated to environmental work. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so in my studies and as a Mellon Community Engagement Fellow, and eager to begin working in collaboration with a local organization. I am particularly interested in adaptive design solutions to existing and looming effects of the climate crisis, mental health impacts of climate change, environmental art and writing, and the ecology and cultural significance of bog, marsh, and coastal ecosystems.
She:kon! Raised in a tiny town on the Canadian border on the edge of the Akwesasne reserve, I grew up with a forest in my backyard and a creek running at my feet. I spent every day of my childhood outdoors until the streetlamps turned on. When I graduated high school, I felt the familiar adolescent calling to leave my small town and so I moved to New York City to attend Columbia University. During college, I was a member of the Native American Council, the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program, and the Research Cluster on Science and Subjectivity. I graduated in 2021 with a bachelor's degree in English and focused my final year on indigenous health and gender.
My work is grounded in an understanding of industry as perpetuating cycles of violence and dispossession in indigenous communities. It explores these issues through a gendered lens with a focus on indigenous women's methods of resistance. The path to this pursuit of study has not been linear but a collective endeavor of interdependent and interdisciplinary learning guided by my community, family, and friends, and is ever evolving. While I still miss the familiar rush of the St. Lawrence River and my community back east, I am excited to do work here in Utah where so many of these issues converge. Niawen.
Pheej Lau/Pheng Lor (he/they)
Pheej is an Environmental Humanities Mellon Community Engagement Fellow. For his Mellon fellowship, he partners with OCA Asian American Pacific Islander Advocates Utah to bridge environmental and sustainability resources and relationships to the Utah Asian and Pacific Islander (API+) communities. His thesis interest explores the role of institutionally-led community and stakeholder engagement to inform strategic and effective science communication. Pheej supports engagement and evaluation efforts for the NSF-funded Coastal Ocean Assessment for Sustainability and Transformation (COAST Card) project, where he hopes to assess synergies and gaps for transdisciplinary and international science collaboration across various study sites, including the Chesapeake Bay, Manila Bay, Tokyo Bay, and Goa Coast.
Pheej was born and raised in Fresno, California, and completed his undergraduate at UC Berkeley with an interdisciplinary degree coined Environmental Health and Equity. He has held various roles in the education and environmental non-profit sectors. His background and passions include plastics reduction and circular economy advocacy, as well as equity-framed community organizing. Pheej is a 2023 GreenBiz Circularity Emerging Leader and serves as the project executive for the Raising Recycling Awareness and Progressing Proper Recycling and Waste Disposal Among the Utah Asian and Pacific Islander (API+) Communities University of Utah SCIF grant.
Maggie Scholle (she/they)
I am from Chicago and have an abiding love for the Midwest rooted in time spent in my parent’s vegetable garden and running along the Chicago River. I graduated from the University of San Diego in 2021 with a degree in environmental science. Brought home to Chicago at the onset of the pandemic, my undergraduate thesis studied potential explanations for the recession of sand at a beach local to my childhood home, and the work involved in that made me increasingly curious about the human, plant, and animal experiences of that loss of land.
Since graduating, I’ve worked in my local bike shop, led field trips at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and spent many weekends cutting buckthorn as a stewardship volunteer with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. As a student of Environmental Humanities and a Digital Matters fellow, my work most broadly focuses on human geography and localized environmental history. My work with Digital Matters studies ways to represent physical and affective layers of meaning on a landscape, integrating GIS and storytelling methods. My thesis project investigates the relationships and landscape that have formed (and often thrived!) through and after processes of military use, solid waste impoundment, and industrialization at Lee Kay Ponds, a conservation area on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley.
As a child the outdoors was my playground. I fell in love with the sun and all things it nourished with its light and energy. I grew fond of its green spaces and crawling critters, finding myself most comfortable and free under the canopy of the southeastern deciduous forests that make up my home state of Virginia. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with a degree in International Social Justice and minor in Environmental studies. Through my studies I grew progressively curious of the multifaceted and ever-complex issues of environmental justice in marginalized communities. This in turn led me to working and learning through local and international organizations such as Shalom Farms and Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
After graduation, I worked as a Research and Administrative Assistant for VCU’s School of World Studies. I also worked as a part-time nanny where I discovered a budding passion for working with children in outdoor spaces. More specifically, I grew interested in working with children of primarily underserved communities to facilitate experiential learning opportunities in and about nature that also incorporate mindful practices to promote mental/emotional sustainability and environmental stewardship. These interests motivated my application to the U’s Environmental Humanities Program where I am currently conducting research on the historical and contemporary social-psychological processes of nature-relatedness in the Black American community.
Outside of school studies and my work as a Field Instructor with Wasatch Mountain Institute (WMI), I can be found on my yoga mat, biking around the city, listening to and creating music, gardening, nerding out over ecology, and hiking/camping around the endlessly vast landscapes of Utah!
Tucked away between the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound is Port Townsend, WA. Growing up I spent my time exploring the Olympic Peninsula, from its highest peaks amongst the mountains to the many inlets and bays that traced the place I call home. During the summers I was fortunate enough to stay with family up in the B.C. Gulf Islands in Canada, where I spent endless days sailing on the water. I attended Pacific University in Oregon for my B.A. as a first-generation college student, where I majored in Art History with minors in Sociology and Criminal Justice, Law, & Society. My academic focuses were rooted in my passion for sustainable agriculture as a fifth-generation dairy farmer. I studied environmental and social harms of industrial agriculture, ancient Greek philosophy on sustainable agriculture, and sustainable food systems. Wanting to create change on my campus, I served on the executive boards for the Animal Ethics Club and Students for Environmental Activism, and was employed by the university’s Center for a Sustainable Society. Through these positions I was able to organize and direct the first annual Earth Day Music Festival. The festival is a day the community can come together to celebrate the earth. We live in a world where we are currently faced with all the terrible things that humankind is inflicting on the planet, and at times we find ourselves in a pit of climate anxiety, unknowing how we can truly fix the state of our planet. The Earth Day Music Festival was a way to share joy and positivity with students and the campus community about the earth, rather than creating more stress about climate change. It is a place the community can still come and learn about sustainability, especially how to get involved on a local level– most importantly, to celebrate and have fun with friends, family, faculty, staff, and strangers. Off campus I volunteered on various farms and interned at Foodways at Nana Cardoon, a non-profit urban farm and learning center. Through this role I was able to connect the community with the local farms through sustainable food systems to help fight food injustices in the area and create a sense of interdependency.
Since leaving Oregon, I am still volunteering at Foodways at Nana Cardoon remotely and doing graphic design work. As an Environmental Humanities student I am interested in the ethics behind the social and environmental harms of industrial agriculture, and creating communities through sustainable agricultural practice and food systems. I hope to dig my hands into the dirt and engage with local farms as well as community organizations focused on sustainable food systems. Outside of my studies, I can often be found up in the mountains trail running, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, hammocking, and rock climbing!
I was born and raised in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where values of localism informed my identity and instilled in me a strong sense of place. After high school, I attended Bates College and graduated in 2020 with a BA in Environmental Studies and a minor in Gender Studies. During my time in Maine, I sought to build community within my college town through food justice work, volunteerism, and community-engaged research. Coursework in the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies led to my undergraduate thesis, which focused on photojournalistic coverage of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico through a lens of slow violence.
After graduation, I moved to Nashville, where I spent time as a nanny, Americorps member, and Communications Coordinator for the Cumberland River Compact. Inspired by visits to state parks around Tennessee, and my personal experiences with tourism in my hometown, I launched and managed the Cumberland River Basin Field Guide: a community-centered ecotourism guide that encourages responsible recreation and smart stewardship of rural Tennessee’s towns and natural spaces.
In my graduate studies, I intend to strengthen my communication skills while exploring the interconnectedness among sense of place, disaster communication, and climate resilience. I am excited to join my cohort as a Mellon Community Engagement Fellow, where I hope to continue the work of place-building in my new Salt Lake community. Outside of school, I enjoy being outdoors, listening to live music, and spending quality time with my partner and our pets.
I was born and raised in Upstate New York, where the rural beauty of the Hudson Valley both fed my interest in the outdoors and a teenage angst to experience urban life. Despite that angst, I found myself at Hamilton College, decidedly more rural, but upon the outbreak of COVID I started to appreciate the geographic isolation more and more. Cow pastures became sites of reflection and appreciation rather than desolation, and the woods around campus became sites of solitude and play rather than escape. Through these years I cultivated a connection to the place I grew up in and the neighboring Hamilton College community, and the integration of human and non-human communities became central to this connection.
Although I majored in government, through my time as a first-year orientation leader in the Adirondack mountains, work with campus environmental activist groups, and introduction to the Environmental Studies department, my interests converged around environmental themes. I am most passionate about climate justice, environmental political theory, environmental education, and capitalist alternatives. I conducted research projects with the East Wind Intentional Community on postcapitalism and prefigurative politics, as well as with the nonprofit Tidelines Institute on alternative environmental education and activism. My senior thesis investigated communalism in practice through the lens of Murray Bookchin’s social ecology.
During my time with the Environmental Humanities program, I hope to continue transcending theory and practice in all I do by bringing the academic into the personal and vice versa. As I seek to cultivate a connection to this new home, I am learning about the human and environmental communities I am immersed in. Whether teaching as a new field instructor with the Wasatch Mountain Institute or camping in the surrounding mountains and deserts, I can’t wait to deepen relationships and community at EH and beyond on our journey to building better futures.
Madi Sudweeks (they/them)
I was born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley on occupied Shoshone, Goshute, and Ute lands. I spent most of my childhood in the mountains hunting, fishing, and exploring with my dad and grandpa. These experiences sparked in me a lifelong curiosity, a passion for learning about the natural world, and a deep connection to this land and its many inhabitants.
After graduating from the University of Utah with degrees in History and Social Work, I worked at a local organization focusing on advancing grassroots leadership and racial equity in education. I also became involved in community organizing efforts focused on mutual aid, transportation justice, and queer liberation. Through these experiences, I have grown deep community roots here in Salt Lake City and am excited to continue to do so through place-based and community-engaged work in this program.
Over my lifetime the effects of climate change in Utah have become impossible to ignore. I have seen first-hand the crises the Great Salt Lake faces and the disproportionate effects of air quality on communities of color and low-income communities here. This has invigorated me to dig my heels in and fight for my community (both human and beyond). Being a part of the Environmental Humanities program is a unique opportunity to dive into deep learning, grow in new and exciting ways, and further connect to my community.
Quinn Luthy (they/he)
My name is Quinn Luthy and I use they/he pronouns. I am ecstatic to be back in the Rocky Mountains as a student of Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. I was born and raised in Durango, Colorado on stolen Ute, and Diné land. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful place, surrounded by the San Juan mountain range, where I started skiing, hiking, and kayaking at a young age. As I grew up, I became incredibly sensitive to environmental issues in Durango, like a declining yearly snowpack, increasing forest fire frequency and severity, and overtourism. I feel a deep connection to Durango, but at the same time, I had always felt isolated because of my identity as a gay, nonbinary person. I was able to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange and spent my sophomore year of high school in Nonthaburi, Thailand. My year in Thailand was deeply formative for me, as it was the first place where I was able to foster a queer community, and coming back to Durango was incredibly difficult. I have always felt a tension within me between my queer identity, and my love of ‘nature’. When I graduated high school, I decided to move and go to school in New York City, at the New School, on stolen Lenape land.
In New York, I pursued Literary Studies with an emphasis in creative writing, and I was able to surround myself with a queer chosen family (including my wonderful partner), and then the COVID-19 pandemic began. I decided to stay in NYC for lockdown, I struggled a lot with the sudden loss of access to greenspace and ‘wilderness’, until I started taking daily walks through the East Williamsburg Industrial district with my partner. We went to the Industrial District because it was almost completely abandoned during COVID, so we felt safe there. On our daily walks, I became obsessed with the resilience of the weeds and city plants growing out of medians in the street, or cracks in the sidewalk, and then I realized that NYC had a ‘wilderness’ too; I adopted these dandelion wilds as my wilderness, and as members of my queer chosen family. I began publishing poetry from a queer ecological perspective. Once I graduated, I spent a year in New York working in publishing, as well as working as a research assistant for Anne Waldman, I also published longform journalism, and continue to write for earth.org. As I searched for graduate programs, I wanted to find a place where I could foster my queer identity, and my deep passion for the environment, and climate change concurrently, which is how I ended up at the University of Utah.
Jerald Lim (he/they)
In 2016, whilst on a Yale-NUS College travel fellowship to film a documentary on Iceland's culture of sustainability, I learned how a park manager stopped visitors from removing volcanic rocks from the park by displaying messages warning visitors they would be cursed with misfortune (and people even started mailing back rocks!). This lithified an interest in unearthing how myths and alternative narratives could be powerful channels for pro-environmental outcomes.
This exploration took various forms in the following years. It included stints in  behavioral insights and nudging,  grassroots organizing and advocacy writing,  facilitating conversations about climate action, and  software product management in green tech startups. Simultaneously, I also developed a broader perspective of the ecological and meaning crises of which climate change is one of many intertwined symptoms alongside issues of justice, health, and prosperity.
Through the Environmental Humanities program, I wish to develop a richer understanding of the stories that got us here and the stories that can transform the ways we relate with each other. I'm especially interested in examining ecotopian narratives, imagined just and sustainable alternate forms of existence, as well as how they might be invigorated in today's public square of culture, entertainment media, from films and games to literature and art. I believe these depictions have the potential to incubate in our collective consciousness radically different futures beyond path-dependent incrementalism, and by extension, prefiguratively bring them into existence.
I received my BA (Hons) in Psychology from Yale-NUS College and my MBA from Quantic. When I'm not engrossed in narratives and environmentalism, I enjoy playing basketball, listening to post-rock and midwest emo, and catching up with near and faraway friends. Feel free to reach out to me if I can be of any help!
Gregorio Barahona Ocampo
Born in the Colombian Andes and raised between Houston, TX, and Bogotá, I’m a mountain soul through and through, grateful to get to live and study at the feet of the Wasatch front. My research interests revolve around the philosophy of science and technology, environmental history, the politics of labor and peasant movements, and the relations between the three. I want to investigate the imprint of colonialism, restrictive or undemocratic philosophical frameworks for scientific research, and conditions of economic dependence on disastrous material outcomes of agriculture and extractive industry, with a special focus on Latin America and South Asia. I aspire to contribute in some way to empowering workers and their communities around the world to build self-sufficiency and economic sovereignty and steward their own territories. The question of how the struggle to preserve cultural identities, languages and lifeways relates to conservation in terms of species and ecosystems is another key academic concern of mine.
Some of my other obsessions include evolutionary theory and the intersections between
economic thought and the philosophy of biology; Latin-American, African, Islamic,
Indigenous-American, and Catholic philosophical traditions; queer and feminist theory;
horror film and literature; and languages. I love cooking (and eating), being outdoors
and in good company, language learning and music. Punk and post-punk, jazz, house,
Latin-American rock, and various folk and popular genres from around the Americas
are among my favorites.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. From there, I joined the Navy, and traveled to Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and California, visiting Arizona, Michigan, Dubai, Bahrain, Thailand, Singapore, and France. I have laughed and cried all over this planet and fallen in love with the mountains and hiking.
My connection to environmentalism is tied to my childhood memories of playing outside in Oklahoma. My grandmother would tend her rose garden and peach tree in the summer evenings, while I chased fireflies. We would look for pecans for her famous homemade pecan pie in the fall. I would spend my mornings and afternoons playing in the dirt or climbing trees when I could. After my contract with the Navy, I added a minor in Sustainability and graduated with my B.A. in Humanities at San Diego State University (SDSU). While attending, I studied environmental justice, sustainability, anthropology, and religious studies. My personal research interests involve exploring the intersection of Afrofuturism and environmentalism to expand environmental justice initiatives. Realizing that not every child is as fortunate as I was to play in a clean environment or have the option to explore the world, my goal is to influence change in a more unified direction.
While attending SDSU, I received the 2023 Student Symposium Research Award for Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice for #EnvironmentalJustice.Now, a social media-based campaign for environmental justice in a historic immigrant residential neighborhood. As a traveler, it means a lot to visit a place, help where I can, and leave a space in the same if not better condition as when I arrived.