Summer 2008
Volume 19, Issue 2
See the Table of Contents below ("In This Issue") and click on the article that you wish to read. When you finish an article, scroll back up to the Table of Contents and click on the next article that you wish to read.
In This Issue
Column: From the President's Desk
Column: The Profession - How to Apply for Grants
Member News
Update on Tallahassee Conference
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2008 - Second Notice
Film Review: "Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem"
Attention Graduate Students
Report on SOLCHA Meeting
From the President's Desk
Summer has finally come to the shores of Lake Superior. Today, the high temperature might even reach 65 degrees. The lupines are blooming along the roadsides and a few timid tourists are shivering in their shorts and t-shirts, wondering where they stashed their sweatshirts.
The news from outside is relentlessly awful. Oil prices keep going up; stock market indices keep going down. The New York Times online edition reports that wealthy families living in their huge houses in Denver's exurban suburbs can no longer afford the hour-long commute in their hefty SUVS. Other families can hardly afford food, with crop prices skyrocketing. The terrible floods earlier this month across the Midwest promise even higher prices this fall.
The worst predictions of environmental Cassandras appear to be coming true as we bump up against limits to spiraling economic growth. It's enough to make you turn off the computer and go jump in the lake, which is exactly what I'll do as soon as this column is finished.
Yet, for all the bad economic and social news, other news is pretty good up here in the north woods. While I'm sitting on the cliff over Lake Superior drinking my morning coffee, a pileated woodpecker comes for a visit. The bald eagles nesting nearby perch in the red pines leaning over the cliff, and a swarm of gulls shrieks and dives at them, trying to drive them away from the gull chicks. Young loons practice their calls in the morning calm, and an osprey circles overhead.
In the village café yesterday morning, the neighbors were arguing over whether that was really a mountain lion they saw the other night (doubtful). Sometimes I'm lucky enough to hear the howls of the wolves that are now denning in the county forest. My two pit bulls wake up in the middle of the night to bark madly at a bear snuffling at the screens (and then like the ferocious creatures pit bulls are, they leap into my bed and try to hide under the pillows.)
Forty years ago, no one thought any of these critters had a chance up here. Habitat loss from the lumber era and the farming that followed, along with the toxic detritus of industrialization--PCBs, mercury, DDT, toxaphene-had trashed the Great Lakes, poisoning the waterways and contaminating wildlife and human bodies. The lakes certainly aren't entirely cleaned up, and local women still wrestle with how much lake trout it's safe eat while they're pregnant. But nevertheless, my generation has witnessed an astonishing restoration of forests and watersheds in the northern Great Lakes region.
The same is true in many other parts of the country. In the New England forests, David Foster and Brian Donahue from the Harvard Forest have proposed a daring venture calling for the permanent protection of one-half of the land in Massachusetts in forest. One-tenth of the forest would be set aside as large wild reserves, with the remaining woodlands sustainably managed for a wide range of social and environmental benefits. In the Pacific Northwest, equally audacious ideas are being suggested. We're in the midst of an environmental and economic crisis right now, but crises eventually become history. The earth persists-changed, of course, but exuberant nonetheless in its diversity and resilience.
Nancy Langston, ASEH President
The Profession: How to Apply for Grants

By Paul Hirt, Arizona State University


Do you wish you had more money to support your research? Do you have an idea for a public program but lack resources to implement it?  Do you want to create a new curriculum but need assistance?  Get a grant!  In his 1987 recording "Cow College Calypso," songwriter and Montana State University English Professor Greg Keeler parodied the typical humanities lament at the typical university:
[sung to a calypso beat]
Please, Mr. man with de budget,
Why do you not give me a raise.
He say, "What you want a raise for?
We don't got hard money.
We only got soft money.
Get a grant."
No, please don't make me get a grant.
For decades, external research funding has been the sine qua non of academic success in the sciences and social sciences.  Only scholars in the humanities (historians included) continue to depend largely on the rather stingy "hard money" available in college and university budgets.  Times are changing, though.  Increasingly, universities expect their humanities faculty to win external grants for research, teaching, and public programs.  Even where such expectations don't exist, grant-getting can immeasurably enhance one's opportunities and job satisfaction. Fortunately, there is more external "soft money" support available than in the past, partly owing to expanding roles for historians in interdisciplinary environmental research programs.
Most historians are familiar with travel grants, fellowships, and small curriculum development proposals, but there are other much larger sources of funding available from federal and state governments and private foundations that can facilitate multi-year creative activities on a more ambitious scale. Regardless of your needs and interests, competition for funding can be stiff and preparing grant proposals is time-consuming so one should approach the task strategically. The following are some basic principles for successful grant-writing:  
Elements of a successful grant proposal:

  • Many federal programs and foundations will regularly publish "Requests for Proposals" (RFPs) with identified funding priorities and eligibility rules. These are usually the large grants.  If you are applying for one, be sure to concertedly craft a proposal that speaks directly to the program priorities.  The central clearinghouse for US government grants is  The clearinghouse for environmental grants from private foundations is For all grants, your main task is to convince the review panel that your (proposed) work is interesting, significant, and original. Assume you are writing for someone who knows nothing about your topic or your specialization and make them care about it.
  • Aoid specialized terminology.  Using academic jargon may shortcut the task of explaining your interpretive framework, but reviewers who are unfamiliar with the terms will not be impressed.
  • Explain why your work matters and how it will address issues of concern beyond academia.
  • Show that you are well-informed about the larger intellectual conversation regarding your subject and that you have something unique to contribute.
  • Be concise.  Make your point, illustrate it with an example, and move on.
  • Be ambitious in what you propose, but be reasonable. Make sure you (or your team) can accomplish the goals in the requisite time frame and with the identified budget.
  • Show as much commitment and "cost-share" as possible: get cash or in-kind contributions from your university, show the value of donated time from consultants and from your own salary, and get supplemental grants from other sources.
  • Follow the application instructions to the letter, start to finish.
  • Give yourself about twice as much time to complete the proposal as you originally thought would be necessary.  A small grant proposal might take a week to prepare.  Large multi-year grant proposals that involve teams of collaborators can take six months to a year to complete.
  • Get comments on a draft from several different people and revise often before submitting the final.
  • If you are turned down the first time, read the reviewer's comments carefully, get advice from the program officer, revise, and resubmit the next year. 

Keep in mind that most universities require faculty to submit grant proposals through a special office for grants and sponsored projects.  There is a lot of paperwork involved and many levels of approval, so allow at least a week for that.  The same office usually has staff trained to assist faculty in writing and submitting grant proposals.  Use their resources. 
Also bear in mind that when you bring in external funds to support research or public programs your university takes a large percentage off the top as overhead or "indirect costs."  For research projects using university facilities, the overhead rate these days is around fifty percent!  That means you only get to use half of the money you bring in.  Sometimes this is negotiable, especially for humanities grants.  Make sure you know what the overhead rate is before you do your budget.  Some granting organizations will not pay overhead and some universities will not allow faculty to apply for grants that do not pay overhead, so check before you prepare your proposal.
Good luck! 
Paul Hirt will be glad to answer questions or offer informal advice to ASEH members seeking to develop grant proposals.  You can contact him at

If you are interested in partnering with ASEH on a grant proposal involving environmental history, contact
Diversity Initiative
A very generous, anonymous donor has made it possible for ASEH to launch a diversity initiative at our Tallahassee conference in February 2009. ASEH's diversity committee is developing this initiative, based on our interest in exploring environmental justice issues, supporting students, and encouraging connections with scholars from other disciplines.  The objective is to integrate diversity into our conferences in a way that lays the groundwork for the future. To this end, we invited students and faculty from Florida A&M University to participate in our conference in Tallahassee and we are looking at ways to incorporate local environmental justice projects into our conference. This fall, we will invite interested ASEH members to host new members attending our conference for the first time (by accompanying them to events and introducing them to people). This is the first announcement, and if you have questions or if you would like to participate, contact 
ASEH's New Fellowships
Owing to the generous donations of our members, ASEH can now offer two new annual fellowships:
Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship
Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship
ASEH created this fellowship to recognize the contributions of Samuel P. Hays, the inaugural recipient of the society's Distinguished Scholar Award, and to advance the field of environmental history, broadly conceived. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 to help fund travel to and use of an archive or manuscript repository. It is open to practicing historians (either academic, public, or independent). Graduate students are ineligible. A Ph.D. is not required. Submissions will be accepted June 1 - September 30, 2008, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2008, for funding in January 2009.
Applications should include a c.v. and a two-page statement (500 words) explaining the project and how the research funds will be used, and should be submitted electronically to Jeffrey Stine, chair of the committee, by September 30, 2008, at
Hal Rothman Dissertation Fellowship
The Hal Rothman Research Fellowship was created to recognize graduate student achievements in environmental history research in honor of Hal Rothman, recipient of ASEH's Distinguished Service award in 2006 and editor of Environmental History for many years. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 for PhD graduate student research and travel in the field of environmental history, without geographical restriction. The funds must be used to support archival research and travel during 2009.
Students enrolled in any PhD program worldwide are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted June 1 -  September 30, 2008, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2008, for funding in January 2009. To apply, please submit the following three items:
 1. A two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
 2. A c.v.
 3. A letter of recommendation from your graduate advisor.
 All items must be submitted electronically to Dolly Jorgensen, chair of the committee, by September 30, 2008 at
Additional donations would make these fellowships more secure. If you are interested in donating to either of these fellowships, please send your contribution to:
Dr. Mark Madison, Chief Historian
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
2009 Meetings
Tallahassee, Florida

February 25 - March 1, 2009


World Congress, Environmental History

International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations

August 4-8, 2009

Click here for more information


Travel Grants for 2009 Meetings

Travel grants are available for those presenting in Tallahassee and Copenhagen. Click here for more information. 
Call for Nominations for ASEH's Next Election
ASEH's next election will take place in the winter of 2009, and our nominating committee is now considering a slate of candidates. If you have suggestions for candidates for the executive committee or nominating committee, please contact Melissa Wiedenfeld at
by August 29, 2008. Click here to view current committee members.
ASEH Member Survey
ASEH will conduct an electronic survey this month, which will help us serve our membership more effectively. The survey will arrive via e-mail, and we very much appreciate your participation.
Non-ASEH Announcements
Celebrating the International Year of Planet Earth
October 5-9, 2008 · Houston, Texas
George R. Brown Convention Center
The 2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM. Hosted by the Houston Geological Society. 
 Registration deadline:  Early Bird, July 14, 2008, Standard, July 15 - September 2, 2008
Ph.D. Fellowship Available
Georgetown University announces a five-year Ph.D. fellowship in
environmental history, of any place or period, beginning in September
2009. Inquiries to John McNeill at
The 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society
Minding Animals
Monday- Sunday, July 13-19, 2009
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
PO Box 116
Salamander Bay, NSW 2317, Australia

T: +61 (0)2 4984 2554
F: +61 (0)2 4984 2755
Member News

Kate Christen (Smithsonian's National Zoo/SI Archives) has been elected to a three-year term as Humanities Representative to the Society for Conservation Biology's Board of Governors. As chair of the ASEH Outreach Committee, Kate has been closely involved in building ASEH links with SCB. Kate has also been a longtime SCB member and presenter at its annual meetings, and served as a founding board member on the SCB's Social Science Working Group. For more information about SCB, its activities, and its upcoming annual meetings (2008 in Chattanooga, TN; 2009 in Beijing, China) see
ABC-CLIO has published South Asia:  An Environmental History, by Christopher V. Hill, a Professor of History at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  The book, which is part of a multi-volume series entitled "Nature and Human Societies," provides a chronological history of the reciprocal relationship between the peoples of South Asia and their various environments.

Update on Tallahassee Conference
Paradise Lost, Found, and Constructed: Conceptualizing and Transforming Landscapes through History

White sand beaches. High rise condos. Snowbirds. Spring Break. Walt Disney World.
Tallahassee: Long-leaf pine forests. Canopy roads. Quiet rivers and lakes. White sand beaches within reach. Tallahassee provides environmental historians the opportunity to explore another Florida, related to but distinct from the pervasive images of Florida in popular culture.
Nestled in Red Hills Region and located just thirty minutes north of the Gulf of Mexico and thirty minutes south of the Georgia border, Tallahassee features lush topography and a moderate climate. Signature characteristics include Canopy Roads -- giant Live Oak trees with sprawling boughs cloaked in Spanish moss creating a natural canopy -- and year-round blooming seasons.
The conference will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Tallahassee. Rates: $119 (USD) / night. Click here for more information.
Field Trips
Several field trips will showcase the unique aspects of the region's environmental history:
1. Wakulla Springs, including a boat ride on the Wakulla River.
2. Birding at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, including a beach walk.
3. Fire Ecology - Tall Timbers/Wade Tract in Georgia.
4. Kayaking on the St. Marks River.
5. Tour of historic Tallahassee, including the Goodwood Plantation House.
An environmental justice project will be added.
David Quammen will serve as the keynote speaker - click hereto learn more.
Wakulla Springs
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2008 - Second Notice

This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2007 and October 31, 2008. Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 7, 2008 to:


Lisa Mighetto

c/o Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program

University of Washington

Box 358436

1900 Commerce Street

Tacoma, WA  98402-3100

Film Review: "Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem"
By David Biggs, University of California - Riverside

When American Vietnam vet and photojournalist Greg Davis dies from a fast-acting liver cancer at age 54, his wife Masako Sakata embarks on a journey from their home in Tokyo to the United States and Vietnam to learn more about the lethal, toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange that she believes contributed to her husband's death.  The result, recorded in this 71-minute documentary film, is a powerful, deeply human and uplifting story that deftly weaves in the complicated environmental story of chemical defoliation in Vietnam with the connected pathways of soldiers, doctors, activists, parents, spouses and children bound together by the illnesses associated with exposure to dioxin during the war and in the decades since.
Although the film begins with an all too familiar, American montage of images of the war-pictures of protesters, footage of the planes spraying jungle, even Joan Baez singing about the rain-it quickly moves beyond the well-trodden ground of American sixties war stories by moving the veteran's story to Japan and presenting impressions of the war from a Japanese woman's perspective.  Sakata interviews a number of Davis' journalist friends, including Philip Jones Griffiths (recently passed away this spring) who published three books of photographs dedicated to Vietnam with one focused solely on Agent Orange. Whereas Griffiths' popular photographs were often criticized for over-emphasizing the grotesque aspects of Agent Orange exposure, Sakata remedies this problem with her extensive, focused interviews with parents and specialists in Vietnam working to rehabilitate sick children, understand the scientific questions, and attempt to clean up places still affected by dioxin in the soil.
The result is a valuable film for students and instructors that balances a complex narrative with rarely seen historic clips of chemical depots on the American bases and clear explanations of the chemical's effects as well as more recent research such as Dr. Vu Thi Phuong Mai's work at Tu Du Maternity Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  While generally a 12-minute YouTube clip suffices for relevant video in an undergraduate classroom, I enthusiastically recommend this film for classes on modern environmental history, the Vietnam War, or even world history as it gets at the trans-generational and trans-national problem of warfare's effects on nature.  At a time when we are beginning again to witness the environmental effects of war in Iraq coming home in veterans' bodies and in stories of Iraqi landscapes, this film makes a valuable, critical incision into the environmental past to make a powerful anti-war statement.

First Run/Icarus Films (2007)
Attention Graduate Students
Graduate Student Liaison and New Discussion Board
This year's acting graduate liaisons, Bradley Skopyk and Merritt McKinney, will soon be drafting a proposal for formally establishing the position of graduate student liaison on ASEH's executive commiteee. They need your help, graduate students! Please visit the new discussion board for graduate students on ASEH's website at
for more information. If you have ideas, suggestions, or questions, please contact Bradley or Merritt at:

Travel Grants Available
Click here
to learn more about travel grants available for the Tallahassee and Copenhagen conferences.
Report on SOLCHA Meeting
By Melissa Wiedenfeld, HNTB
The Sociedad Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Historia Ambiental (Society for Latin American and Caribbean Environmental History), or SOLCHA, held its fourth meeting at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in Brazil's third largest city, Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, on May 28-30, 2008.  About 250 people attended.  Conference participants presented over 150 papers and over 30 posters.
This particular conference encouraged a variety of papers on environmental history, including environmental politics, environmental management, theory of environmental history, interdisciplinary approaches to environmental history, teaching environmental history, urban environmental history, natural disasters, and environmentalism and thought in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Perhaps the highlight of the meeting was the field trip to Itabira Peak and Ouro Preto, which focused on mining activities in the region.  The Vale mining company hosted field trip participants, giving a tour and lunch at what is now, in its reduced state, called Itabirito Peak.  We were all impressed with the colonial architecture in Ouro Preto, particularly the numerous colonial churches and incredibly steep cobblestoned streets.

Special thanks to UFMG's Regina Horta Duarte and her students, as well as other UFMG faculty members, for running a great conference and making everyone feel at home.  SOLCHeros extend a warm invitation to ASEH members for the next conference, in 2010, in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Photos courtesy Roberto Delpiano and Lise Sedrez.

SOLCHA participants hike up Itabira Peak to view mining operations in Minas Gerais, Brazil.


A panel on National Parks in Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina included Kate Christen, Germán  Palacio, Melissa Wiedenfeld, and David Aagesen.
Reinaldo Funes, Wilson Picado, and Sterling Evans at the mine at Itabira Peak in Minas Gerais.

ASEH News is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.


  • Nancy Langston, Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin-Madison, President
  • Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vice President/President Elect
  • Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
  • Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary

Executive Committee:

  • Kathleen Bronson, University of Houston
  • Peter Coates, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
  • Nancy Jacobs, Brown University
  • Katherine Morrissey, University of Arizona
  • Mark Stoll, Texas Tech University
  • Verena Winiwarter, University of Vienna, Austria 

Ex Officio, Past Presidents:

  • Carolyn Merchant, University of California-Berkeley
  • Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
  • Douglas Weiner, University of Arizona 

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:

  • Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma 

Ex Officio, H-Environment Representative:

  • Melissa Wiedenfeld, HNTB 

Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:

  • Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz




ASEH Annual Conference,
Tallahassee, Feb. 25-March 1, 2009


Travel grants available for Tallahassee conference - click here to learn more.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a session proposal for our Tallahassee conference. Our program committee will be contacting you later this summer. 

What's New on ASEH's Website

Updated Info on Fellowships:
Click here to learn more about Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship.
Click here to learn more about Hal Rothman Research Fellowship for PhD students.
Teaching Units:
A grant from the National Science Foundation enabled ASEH to prepare a teaching unit for high school and undergraduate education called "Better Living Through Chemistry?" It includes historical documents, suggestions for discussion, and  more. We are grateful to Sarah Mittlefehldt for preparing these materials. Click here to view the teaching units.
Oral Histories:
During the last quarter, we added interviews with John Opie, Donald Worster, and Stephen Pyne. Click here to learn more.
New Poll:
Click here to view our latest poll (see lower right corner).
For Graduate Students:
We have expanded the resources for graduate students to include a discussion board, and we have collected the "How To..." articles called "The Profession" from this newsletter. Click here to view.
Click here to view video excerpt of Donald Worster's intervew in Boise.
Click here to view video excerpt of John Opie's interview in Boise. 
Idaho Public Television taped an interview on climate change with our Boise plenary speaker, Stephen Schneider, and the organizer of our Boise fire workshop, Stephen Pyne. Click here to view the video.
We also videotaped the plenary session and fire workshop in Boise, and these videocasts will soon be available on our website.


This newsletter is a quarterly publication of the American Society for Environmental History. If you have questions, or if you would like to submit an article or announcement, contact Lisa Mighetto, editor, at
The deadline for the fall issue is September 12, 2008.
Safe Unsubscribe
This email was sent to, by
American Society for Environmental History | UW Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program | 1900 Commerce Street | Tacoma | WA | 98402