School of Environment, Geography, and Sustainability
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Michigan


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of Forest and Wildlife Ecology

(emphases in environmental history and cultural-landscape ecology; co-advisors Bill Cronon & Ray Guries) 

M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies (emphases in cultural geography and political ecology)

B.S., Miami University  


I am an environmental historian in the School of Environment, Geography, and Sustainability at Western Michigan University. My earliest research was in West Africa. Later I spent many years in the spectacular Kickapoo Valley of southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless Area. Today my work centers on the more than human worlds of the Great Lakes.

My recent book, The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes, foregrounds the St. Clair River, a critical tri-national connecting water and international maritime corridor between Lakes Huron and Erie. Making sense of complex ecocultural relationships, and care for community well-being, are both deep concerns in my research and writing. These include land and water tenure; conditions of injustice and justice; different kinds of knowledges, perspectives, sense of place; and especially our troubled relationships with land, water, and the other beings we share these with.  

It's a privilege to be part of a passionate community of scholars, scientists, policy-makers, writers, artists, and activists devoted to our enormous but vulnerable inland seas. Whenever possible, I'm outside photographing the natural world, vernacular landscapes, and willing family, friends, colleagues, and students.    

Recent Projects

Great Lakes Dreamscapes: Revised Storytelling for Biodiversity Conservation. Long-term exploration, writing, and collaborations organized around these three remarkable landforms: alvar "pavement" grasslands on Drummond and Manitoulin Islands in Lake Huron; the St. Clair Flats forming the U.S.-Canada-Bkejwanong border; and Great Lakes coastal sand dunes. Below, see one Dreamscapes presentation with artist Glenn Wolff.

An environmental humanities grant focused on applications of two-eyed seeing on Lake Huron coasts and islands, with the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace, Michigan, and with an Anishinaabe/Odawa historian who works for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

"Stewardship": An essay for an edited volume entitled A Book of Common Places: Keywords for a More Than Human World (editors Karl H. Jacoby and Susan Johnson). Assigned keywords to many contributors are in honor of the writings and mentorship of environmental historian William Cronon.


                                     Dreamscapes: A Great Lakes Triptych (Glenn Wolff with Lynne Heasley)


Representative Publications

The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes (E. Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2021). 

Named a 2023 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Grand Prize Winner for Nonfiction
(also first place in the categories of animals and education-academic)

 2022 Nautilus Silver Winner for Lyric Prose

 Listen to a podcast about the book. And read this review by poet and environmental essayist Keith Taylor.

Here's my "Foreword" to Nancy Langston's poignant Climate Ghosts: Migratory Species in the Anthropocene (Brandeis University Press, 2021). Definitely read this lovely book!

"Water, Oil, and Fish: The Chicago River as a Technological Matrix of Place," with Daniel Macfarlane, in City of Lake and Prairie: Chicago's Environmental History (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020), 91-107. 

Border Flows: A Century of the Canadian-American Water Relationship, co-edited with Daniel Macfarlane (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2016).

A Thousand Pieces of Paradise: Landscape and Property in the Kickapoo Valley (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012).

“Re-centering North American Environmental History: Pedagogy and Scholarship in the Great Lakes Region,” with James Feldman, Environmental History 12:3 (2007).

“On Walking Contested Land: Doing Environmental History in West Africa and the U.S.,”  Environmental History 10:3 (2005).