I’m an associate professor of history and environmental studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I'm also the director of the Environmental Studies Program.
A historian of North America, my research and teaching focus on nineteenth and twentieth-century US history, environmental history, the North American West, urban history and the history of science, technology, and medicine. I’m the author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle (Yale University Press, 2007), which received the biennial 2009 Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Organization of American Historians for “the best book on the history of native and/or settler peoples in frontier, border and borderland zones of intercultural contact in any century to the present.” I’ve also written numerous peer-reviewed articles, general audience essays and op-eds, and curriculum materials for secondary school students.
I’ve received fellowships, grants and awards for my work from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, American Society for Environmental History, Urban History Association, Organization of American Historians, and Western History Association. I’ve also held a two-year fellowship from the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP), a national organization for emerging environmental leaders from diverse social and professional backgrounds. I’ve been an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer since 2009, and have served on the board of directors for ELP and the Urban History Association, plus the editorial board of the journal, Environmental History. In 2006, I received the Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty, the only award for teaching excellence at Bowdoin.
My current book-length research projects include: “Sweet Blood: Diabetes and the Changing Nature of Modern Health,” which analyzes the environmental and social history of the diabetes outbreak from its antecedents in the mid-nineteenth century to the present; and “Rivers Lost and Found,” a collaborative project with my friend Bowdoin colleague, Michael Kolster (Visual Arts), exploring the changing nature of key industrial rivers along the Atlantic seaboard as they recover from decades of neglect.
A native Westerner, born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, I received my B.A. in history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990 (high distinction in general scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa) and my Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2001. I live with my wife and fellow historian, Connie Y. Chiang, and our two young children in Brunswick, Maine.
Awards and Recognition
- National Endowment for the Humanities, Public Scholar Award (for "Sweet Blood"), 2017-18
- Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, 2016
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship (for "Sweet Blood"), 2011-15
- Finalist, Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, for “Rivers Lost and Found” (with Michael Kolster, Bowdoin College), 2014
- Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, 2009-18 (renewed, third term)
- Ray Allen Billington Prize (for Emerald City), biennial award for the best book in American frontier history, Organization of American Historians, 2009
- Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty (for distinction in teaching), Bowdoin College, 2006
- National Fellow, Environmental Leadership Program, 2002-04
- American Council of Learned Societies/Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for Junior Faculty, 2004-05