That Ain’t Natural or Adventures in Being an Academic Killjoy I

Last night I cracked open an Images of America–a popular history series that seeks to tell lesser known aspects of American history through photographs and other images–instalment by Eugene H. Ware. The volume is dedicated to the history of Presque Isle State Park and the land on which it was created. The images themselves are fascinating, …

Visualizing a Park System: Creating an Interactive Timeline

One of the most challenging aspects of my dissertation is figuring out how to analyze the development of four different park systems (Pennsylvania, Idaho, Ontario, and Alberta) over a period of about one hundred years. The sources tend to blur together in my mind, making analysis nearly impossible. I am a visual learner, and about …

Bittersweet Sounds of Home

One of the bittersweet parts of my dissertation research is that I’m continuously reminded of or encountering things that remind me of my childhood homeland: Northwestern Pennsylvania, namely Cook Forest State Park and the forests of the region. I stumbled on this video today. Ignoring the narrator, I closed my eyes and took in the …

Sunshine and Frustration: Reflections on the Joys and Challenges of a Large-Scale, Transnational Dissertation

Note: This blog post originally appeared on AHA Today.    “Sorry, We’re Closed,” read the sign on the door of the small Albertan museum I had traveled hours to get to and planned to conduct research at last Monday. I sighed, “What now?” I thought to myself as I climbed back into my car … I think it is …

Do Not Look Into the Manly Void: Horsbrugh, Pittsburgh, and Point State Park

Sometimes a source just clicks. Sometimes the writer just jumps from the page and one begins to feel like they know the individual personally. This is how I feel about ol’ Patrick Horsbrugh–or Patty, as I like to call him– an architect and urban planner who, in 1963, published the report, Pittsburgh Perceived: A Critical Review of …

Hagiographically-Induced Cringing: A Snippet on The Cook Family and Cook Forest State Park

I just began reading Eastern Old-Growth Forest: Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery (1996); just began is not an overstatement, I just finished the Foreward. Nonetheless, a passage in the Foreward by John Davis demands a brief comment: “Even as it underscores the importance of whole communities and ecosystems, old growth assures us quietly yet grandiosely that individuals …

On Question Periods and State Park Closures

Originally posted on Thoughts Across Time. I find the most difficult part of presenting at conferences to be the question section. There is something about being put on-the-spot that causes one to completely forget the entirety of one’s knowledge base. One frantically searches the suddenly blank depths of one’s mind for a semi-intelligent response. The ability …

Notes from the Field

Originally Published for Rachel Carson Center’s blog, Seeing the Woods Outsider. Insider. My academic journey thus far often seems like a tightrope act between these two desires. My background and passion for state parks and nature has led me to become an environmental historian who focuses on parks. My dissertation is a comparative history of the …