My first research project explored the implications of remaking Nature as Infrastructure. The resulting book, Beyond the Big Ditch: Politics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal (MIT 2014), recasts the story of the iconic waterway from its rural margins. It shows how the reorganization of the surrounding watershed as an infrastructure to optimize the fresh water supply used to move ships between the seas transformed Panamanian landscapes and livelihoods. A Spanish version is forthcoming from the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia. As part of this project, I have also published on the politics of nature as infrastructure, history of the infrastructure concept, unbuilt and unfinished projects, the meaning of weedy landscapes, and reconceptualizing drought. I edited a collection on the canal's environmental history and explored how engineered landscapes became pristine nature.
My current book project, The Age of Mitigation (in progress) follows a new generation of mega-containerships passing through a recently expanded Panama Canal to Savannah, Georgia, home to a rising logistics hub and the fourth-largest container port in the US. The manuscript focuses on a megaproject that will deepen the lower Savannah River to nearly five times its natural depth to accommodate these vessels and analyzes complex efforts to predict and mitigate its environmental impacts. More broadly, I am interested in how establishing global supply chains drives place-based ecological changes and catalyzes local debates about what it means to secure a sustainable future. As part of this broader project, I have published articles with my collaborator Joshua Lewis on the political ecology of global shipping standards and navigation dredging in the southeastern United States. I have edited and written essays for two volumes on global chokepoints (one in Ethnos, one in Limn), and tried to make sense of the surprising persistence of “feel” in the work of maritime pilots navigating megaships.
I am also developing two new research projects on sustainable transitions that build upon my long-term interests in infrastructure, communities, and ecological politics. The first, Hot City, explores the intersection of climate change, urban infrastructure, and lived experiences of heat in Nashville with a focus on understanding thermal inequality. The second, Infrastructures for Socio-Ecological Flourishing, is a collaboration with Working Landscapes, a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization. Recognizing that global food systems have damaged community economies and ecologies and that exclusively local responses are insufficient for transforming entrenched supply chains, this research is concerned with reimagining regional infrastructures to create conditions of possibility for more sustainable livelihoods.