I am a sociologist, working in the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS). My research addresses three main topics: 1) public participation in scientific research, 2) subterranean resource politics, and 3) the governance of environmental pollution. Across all of these topics, I examine how knowledge is created and mobilized by polluting industries, institutions of democratic governance, and the diverse publics affected by technological change.
Recently, my research has focused on "citizen science"--public participation in environmental monitoring. My goal is to bring concepts of power and social justice into sharper focus in popular and professional discussions of citizen science. What kind of citizenship is implied in citizen science? How can participatory environmental research enhance struggles for social change beyond merely generating data? My book on this topic, co-authored with Aya H. Kimura, is Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge (Rutgers, 2019). My newest NSF-funded project, Nuestros Suelos/Our Soil, explores how citizen science could help urban communities to identify heavy metal contamination in soil and to advocate for solutions.
I am a co-organizer of STS Underground, a research network that advances social science research on the technoscientific dimensions of mining, burial, and other forms of subterranean exploration. My own contributions to research in this area include several years of study of the shale oil and gas boom in the United States and a new project focusing on the global legacies and persistence of lead mining.
Above the Earth's surface, food and water are some of my central concerns. I am the author of Seeds, Science, and Struggle: The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops (MIT, 2012). I was the PI on the NSF-funded Watershed Knowledge Mapping Project, which examined the practices and politics of volunteer stream monitoring in the context of shale gas development, or "fracking." My new project about lead in soil aims to reduce the risks of gardening in contaminated urban environments.
The methods I use to do this work are primarily qualitative, aimed at producing theoretically and empirically grounded representations of social life. I gather original data through field research, conducting in-depth interviews and engaging in participant observation. I also analyze existing materials such as historical archives, news media, policy documents, and Congressional testimony. I have used survey methods and spatial mapping using geographic information systems when these were the best ways to answer my questions, and I continue to develop novel methods as I pursue new research problems.