Image courtesy of Barron Bixler

Overview

Launched in 2021, the Environmental Media Lab conducts applied research and creates original stories about on-the-ground experiences of large-scale environmental problems. In this work, we focus on how different communities envision the future not for the planet in the abstract but for the places they know, value and call home. A multidisciplinary hub, the lab draws on—and rethink the boundaries between—data, history and imagination. Lab members represent a number of fields, including American studies, anthropology, environmental humanities, geoscience, hydrology, Latin American history, literature, photography and theater. We partner with artists, editors, producers, journalists, filmmakers, media organizations and public science groups, among others.

Current collaborations include an audio-centered story series that lab members are leading on topics ranging from lithium mines, wildfires and hurricanes to coral reefs and palm trees. These stories are being developed in and on behalf of locations such as Lambertville, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; the Meadowlands; Lytton, British Columbia; the Puna region of Latin America; Paiute and Shoshone lands in northern Nevada; and California.

The lab currently receives support from the Princeton University programs and centers listed below and from the American Council of Learned Societies. To learn more about how to support our work, please contact the lab director and principal investigator, Allison Carruth.

princeton sponsors

Humanities_Council_Light_Backgrounds

What We Do

incubator

Our climate stories incubator involves students, postdoctoral researchers and collaborators in the development of narrative projects that are site-specific and participatory. Organized around the broad idea of "Coastal Futures," the inaugural incubator is designed to experiment with and study diverse stories about how coastal places and people are living through, making sense of and acting in response to climate change. The initial geographic focus for this incubator is the mid-Atlantic and coastal California.

research and publication

Alongside our multimedia storytelling projects, the lab investigates how and when dominant forms of science communication and environmental narrative have broad impact, and who they fail to represent or engage and why. We conduct this research with particular attention to the histories, epistemologies and values that shape contemporary conflicts around science, nature and climate change. To provide a forum for this type of environmental research and for allied creative projects, the lab plans to publish a digital journal beginning in 2024.

programming

Working with co-sponsors, the lab supports and convenes screenings, exhibits, workshops and symposia. The lab also hosts environmental researchers, journalists, writers and artists. In 2022-2023, the lab is hosting artist/educators Sarah Rothberg and Marina Zurkow (co-creators of "Investing in Futures") and co-sponsoring the Ecotheories Colloquium. We also support and collaborate with the Media + Environment journal, published by University of California Press and co-edited by Alenda Chang, Adrian Ivakhiv and Janet Walker.

current members

Professor of American Studies and Environmental Studies; Lab Director and Principal Investigator

Allison Carruth

Art and Media Specialist, HMEI; Lab Creative Director & Project Mentor

Barron Bixler

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Jayme Collins

Student researcher, Class of 2023

Noa Greenspan

PhD student, English

Kyra Morris

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Nathaniel Otjen

Student researcher, Class of 2023

Magdalena Poost

ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow, Environmental justice media and American studies

Juan Manuel Rubio

PhD Student, Geosciences

Gemma Sahwell

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Mario Soriano

Professor of American Studies and Environmental Studies; Lab Director and Principal Investigator

Allison Carruth

Allison Carruth is Professor in the Effron Center for the Study of America and the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton, where she directs the Environmental Media Lab. For over a decade, her research and creative practice have bridged ideas from and re-imagined the boundaries between the environmental arts, humanities and sciences. Collaborative projects have been central to this work—from the Food Justice Conference to Play the LA River. From 2016-2020, she was the founding director of UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS). While leading LENS, she was an executive producer of an environmental series featuring original essays and documentary films, developed in partnership with KCET, the country’s largest public media outlet. She is the author of Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (Cambridge 2013) and co-author of Literature and Food Studies (Routledge 2018). Her book Novel Ecologies is under contract with the University of Chicago Press. Her work has been supported by ArtPlace America, the National Science Foundation, the University of California Humanities Research Institute and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

Art and Media Specialist, HMEI; Lab Creative Director & Project Mentor

Barron Bixler

Barron Bixler is a social-environmental documentary photographer, writer, designer and creative director. He holds an appointment as Art and Media Specialist at Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute. His photographs, writings, and other art and design projects have been featured in BOOM: A Journal of CaliforniaGastronomica: The Journal for Food StudiesCivil EatsKCET ArtboundDwellLAistKUSC Arts Alive, the Fresno Bee and the Stockton Record.

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Jayme Collins

Jayme Collins is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the High Meadows Environmental Institute. She is at work on both a book project and a podcast. The book is titled “Composing in the Field: Situated Poetries and Environments” and is about post-1960s avant garde poetry, imperialism and land use. The podcast investigates the interfaces between archives and ecology, from climate crises to conceptualizations of preservation. She writes about the intersections between literature, art and the environmental present. Her work can be found in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Wordsworth Circle and Jen Bervin: Shift, Rotate, Reflect.

Student researcher, Class of 2023

Noa Greenspan

Noa Greenspan is a senior at Princeton studying English, environmental studies and creative writing. She has worked with the Environmental Media Lab as an intern to research and produce audio stories about her home region of coastal Virginia as the community reconfigures to face sea level rise and flooding. Noa also works with Wyoming Public Media on two podcasts: Carbon Valley centers on coal’s decline in northeastern Wyoming, and The Modern West explores the history and evolving identity of the American West.

PhD student, English

Kyra Morris

Kyra Morris is a fourth year PhD candidate in the English Department. Her dissertation, “Landscapes of Loss, Forms of Recovery: Writing at the Margins of the Great Acceleration,” asks how twentieth and twenty-first century poets and non-fiction writers use the boundary between literary and non-literary forms as a site for recovering meaning from landscapes marked by twentieth-century industry and violence. Her own work seeks to unsettle the boundary between critical and creative writing. With the Environmental Media Lab, she is working on a story about the New Jersey Meadowlands—20,000 acres of salt marsh defined by the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers. Since they became the garbage dump for New York City in the nineteenth century, the Meadowlands have been the site of difficult to quantify amounts of dumping as well as the site of development and speculation—a wasteland land that somebody always wanted to “reclaim” or “redeem.” This project will ask whether it’s possible to tell a different story. Kyra’s work has been published in the journal Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment.

 

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Nathaniel Otjen

Dr. Nathaniel Otjen (he/they) is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University, where he is also affiliated with the Environmental Media Lab. Trained as an interdisciplinary environmental humanist, he specializes in environmental justice studies, multispecies ethnography and life-writing literature. His research disrupts logics and structures that produce isolation, especially liberal humanism, anthropocentrism, colonialism and neoliberalism. In their place, he proposes modes of being that support human and nonhuman lives, in all their complexity and specificity. Dr. Otjen is currently working on his first book, Entangled Lives: Multispecies Selves, Justice, and Narratives, which conceptualizes modes of selfhood and justice premised upon multispecies entanglement and reciprocity. His published research can be read in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Resilience, Journal of Modern Literature and Configurations, among others.

Student researcher, Class of 2023

Magdalena Poost

Magdalena Poost is a senior undergraduate at Princeton University concentrating in socio-cultural anthropology, with certificates in food and the environment, creative writing and theater. As an intern with the lab, they have been working on an audio narrative project about acclimation to change in the story of flood recovery in Lambertville, NJ following Tropical Storm Ida. Interested in environmental art-making practices grounded in tenderness and queer/trans cosmologies, Magdalena is completing two senior theses: the first, a series of community meals and performance arts pieces exploring food as narrative, and the second, a book of poetry about the gap created when translating your body into language (or: the space between an orange and its rind).

ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow, Environmental justice media and American studies

Juan Manuel Rubio

Dr. Juan Manuel Rubio is a scholar of capitalism, labor and the environment. His work focuses primarily on the history of the mining industry and the struggles of those touched by its environmental legacy. He is currently working on a book manuscript about a series of environmental conflicts connected to the rise of industrial copper mining in central Peru (1880 – 1930). In addition to studying the social history of miners, mine-owners, transnational capitalists and Indigenous communities during this period, Dr. Rubio researches the impact of the mining industry on disadvantaged communities today. Through community-based collaborations with public health scholars and environmental activists, Dr. Rubio is doing scientific research on the sources of lead contamination in California and its connection to histories of capitalism, corporate science and environmental racism. As part of the Environmental Media Lab, he is also curating an audio series (Healing with the Soil) about different experiences with soil remediation around the world.

PhD Student, Geosciences

Gemma Sahwell

Gemma Sahwell is a PhD student in the Geosciences department, where she uses stable isotope geochemistry as a tool to study the efficacy of shallow-water carbonate rocks as archives of global scale climate changes through Earth’s history. She became interested in the Environmental Media Lab as an extension of her scientific research, driven by the question of accessibility of scientific knowledge to wider audiences outside of the academy and experiments with auditory and visual modes of communication. Gemma is interested in bringing together new and old media with environmental science knowledge to tell compelling stories about earth’s past and our potential collective futures.

Postdoctoral Fellow, HMEI

Mario Soriano

Mario Soriano received his PhD in Hydrology and Water Resources from Yale University. His research draws on theoretical frameworks and methodologies from hydrogeology, sustainability science and applied data science to examine the movement of water and contaminants, and their intersections with human activities and values. His interests revolve around the linkages between water as a natural resource, an environmental driver and a pillar of well-being. He has experience in collaborative projects exploring the water-energy nexus, public health, indigenous agroecology, environmental justice and science communication. Within the Environmental Media Lab, Mario explores connections between hydrological model projections, uncertainty and emerging narratives of water futures embedded in various forms of knowledge and environmental storytelling.