I am an assistant professor of public affairs and sociology (by courtesy) at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. I study how and why people try to solve pressing social and ecological problems – processes that are always mediated by complex governance institutions and organizations and shaped by political conflicts and culture. In short, I bring a sociologist’s eye to questions of environmental governance.
My current research weaves together insights from sociology, political science, environmental history, and geography to understand “environmental states” and the ways they manage human relationships with nature. I also study the integration of nature into economic systems, usually by way of novel market-oriented governance institutions (think cap-and-trade or biodiversity offsetting). The questions here are no less profound even if their policy manifestations are more esoteric. The basic inquiry is one into the ways that people assign value to nature, and the ways those values – cultural as much as pecuniary – shape environmental governance.
In addition to my primary appointments, I am also a core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State. I was formerly a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany and also a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results Fellow (the EPA STAR program was, very unfortunately, shuttered in 2015). I am an active alumnus of the Summer Institute on Organizations and their Effectiveness at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. A little more basically, I am also a teacher, an avid traveler, a cyclist, a cook, a father, and an outdoors-person.
In 2021, I founded the Rea Environment and Society Lab (RESL) to create opportunities for students to get involved with environmental social science research and to advance actionable knowledge on questions of environment, nature, sustainability, and justice.