Returning from ASEH

I am back—and feel like I am still returning—from the American Society for Environmental History‘s annual meeting in Madison in late March. The conference is a great opportunity to catch up with friends, colleagues, and their research. This year’s meeting was no exception. It was busy conference for me as I was involved in a panel and a workshop.


The most obvious outcome of the conference is this blog. I am finally taking Sean Kheraj‘s advice to “take control of my Google!” That was the theme of his talk, “The Academic and the Internet,” which led off the workshop organized by myself and Andrew Case at UW-M. The workshop title—“Navigating Career Challenges in Difficult Times: Professional Development for Environmental History Graduate Students”—is self-explanatory and was planned directly after the 2011 ASEH conference in Phoenix. When Joel Tarr started a thread on H-Net on the “jobs crisis,” we felt ahead of the curve. And that perhaps he was treading on our territory. Hey—leave unemployment to the grad students!

The workshop took place Saturday morning, March 31, and we had a great turnout. Along with Sean, panel participants included Todd Dresser at UW-Oshkosh, and Bob Blythe, an independent scholar from Chicago who writes parks histories for the U.S. National Parks Service. We had two well-attended sessions, which concluded with a lively roundtable discussion. Thanks to Andrew, Sean, Todd, and Bob for making this work. We had some great feedback and one fellow grad student reported that the sessions gave him hope!

Kara Schlicting (the incoming ASEH grad liaison) and Andrew Watson (on the Toronto organizing committee) are already discussing plans for a grad student workshop for next year. If you want to talk to Kara or Andrew — send me a note and I will connect you with them.


I’ve presented posters at previous ASEH conferences, but this was my first paper and my first stab at organizing a panel. “Exhibiting Nature: Seeking the Wet, the Wild, and the Dead” (cue Enrico Morricone) featured Karen Lloyd, Daniel Vandersommers, Robert Gee, and myself. Karen and I gave talks on habitat dioramas, while Dan gave a talk about prairie dogs–which was punctuated by much laughter about unruly animals—in the Philadelphia Zoo. Robert gave a paper on the Great International Fisheries Exhibition in 1883—a topic close to my own heart as it was the source for the Dominion Fisheries Museum, which is the subject of my dissertation. The panel was chaired by Tina Loo.

My own talk was a piece of orphaned research, which I titled “Modeling a National Nature: The Wood Bison Habitat Group at the National Museum of Nature.” I call it orphaned because originally my thesis included the modeling of Canada’s mammals–and this paper was going to be a chapter. But earlier this year I decided to focus on the Dominion Fisheries Museum in my dissertation. So goodbye Wood Bison, hello Sturgeon and Salmon! Though don’t be surprised if I stray off into the woods in this blog…


About Will Knight

I am PhD candidate in Canadian environmental history at Carleton University in Ottawa. I am currently writing a dissertation on Canada's fisheries museum. Never heard of it? That's because it was demolished in 1918...My thesis explores this short-lived institution and the conceptual and material modeling of fish and fisheries in late 19th and early 20th century North America.
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