Skip to Content

National Endowment for the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities

These events are supported by a National Endowment of the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities grant for Plymouth State University’s Sustainability Studies program.

Becoming Naturalized: Environmentalism and Attachment to Place in American Literature

Presented by Michelle Neely

Thursday, May 1, 2024, 4:30-6:00 pm

This is a hybrid event. To receive a Zoom link, please register HERE.

What is the relationship between loving a place deeply and nurturing and sustaining it? This is a question that Indigenous and non-Indigenous American writers have long revolved, alive to the ways our history of settler colonialism complicates the question. In her talk, Michelle Neely will draw on the work of Henry David Thoreau, Willa Cather, and Robin Wall Kimmerer to explore the connections between attention, affection, and ecological care for a specific environment. She will talk about writers who have envisioned dwelling with reciprocal responsibility to the places we live, and how this literature provides fertile ground for all of us seeking to thrive in an age of environmental crisis.

Michelle C. Neely is Associate Professor of English, Director of American Studies, and affiliated faculty in Environmental Studies at Connecticut College. Her scholarship has appeared in or is forthcoming in venues such as American Literature, Thoreau in Context (Cambridge University Press), and The Oxford Handbook of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Oxford University Press). Her first book, Against Sustainability: Reading Nineteenth-Century America in the Age of Climate Crisis (Fordham University Press, 2020), explores environmental paradigms emergent during the nineteenth-century in light of both nineteenth and twenty-first century struggles for racial and ecological justice. She is at work on a new project about nineteenth-century U.S. literature and utopian possibilities.

What Archaeology Can Teach Us About Sustainability: Notes from a Recovering Archaeologist

Presented by David Goldstein

Thursday, April 16, 2024, 4:00-5:30 pm

Archaeology is often overlooked as a teaching platform for sustainability. The information that archaeology produces focuses on the consumption, use, and care of resources. Archaeologists attempt to understand their data and imagine the social systems that produced those results. Most archaeologists, however, rarely consider how long term trend about ecosystem health can be patterned against archaeological data as researchers are working in the field and reporting their results.  We can examine case studies from the Coastal Andes and Central America. In particular, we will discuss how perennial agriculture can be viewed across time and space through a lens of sustainability.

David Goldstein serves the National Park Service the North Atlantic and Appalachian Region’s Cultural Anthropologist. His work aims to serve communities through making ethnographic work relevant and activating Indigenous Co-Stewardship policy on public lands.

Prior to his work in the National Park Service he studied and worked as a paleoethnobotanist and archaeologist in Peru, Bolivia, Belize, Cuba and Mexico. His tours with the National Park Service include in Detroit, MI as an Urban Fellow, in his hometown, and in 2011 as the Interpretation Division Chief for the three park units on St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. In his current role, David is attempting to bring the region’s Tribal Citizens and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation.  The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection through understanding the tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. He lives in Rumney, NH.

Eating Their Way to Freedom

Presented by Margot Anne Kelley

Thursday, March 27, 2024, 6:00-7:30 pm

Food is fraught. Even people who agree on many other things argue about what diet is the best, healthiest, most ethical. When speaking with elders, it is often said that it wasn’t like that when they were young, that everyone ate the same things, and only people with certain ailments had “dietary restrictions.” But that wasn’t actually the case. At least since the 1840s here in the US, many people have seen eating in philosophical and political terms. Margot will speak about how food and freedom have been connected for some of these folks, and about how that can matter as we continue to think about sustainability today.

Margot Anne Kelley is a former college professor, a photographer, an avid gardener, and a writer whose work focuses on people’s relationships to the natural world. She lives in a small fishing village in Maine, and is the co-founder of a community center that runs a food pantry and community garden, among other programs. Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love, & a Wholesome Meal is her most recent book, but she is thrilled to share that her newest book, A Gardener at the End of the World, will be out next week.

Protecting Brown Ash for Forest Ecosystems and Cultural Sustainability

Presented by Tyler Everett, Emily Francis, Ella McDonald, and MWM Director Meghan Doherty

Thursday, March 7, 2024, 12:00-1:30 pm

As the invasive emerald ash borer begins to spread through the Northeast, an effort called the Ash Protection Collaboration Across Wabanakik (APCAW), led by University of Maine School of Forest Resources Professor and Penobscot Nation Tribal member Dr. John Daigle, is mobilizing stakeholders across the Dawnland to protect the long term future of ash. Wabanaki people have had a relationship to brown ash trees since time immemorial: this tree plays a role in one of their creation stories, and is used as the primary material for traditional basketmaking. The spread of EAB threatens this relationship as well as the health of wetland ecosystems. In this session, three APCAW graduate students will discuss their collaborative efforts with Tribal, state, and conservation partners to protect brown ash from emerald ash borer in the Dawnland. Participants will learn how to get involved in monitoring, ash management, and seed collection, in ways that are informed by both current research and Wabanaki priorities.

Speaker Bios

Tyler Everett: Tyler (he/him) is a citizen of Mi’kmaq Nation. His research prioritizes methodologies that result in Tribal led science. He is a PhD student in the School of Forest Resources here at the University of Maine and his current research focuses on the impacts of emerald ash borer (EAB) on Tribal ash resources and identifying innovative management and mitigation strategies for this forest health issue that Tribal Nation partners support and have interest in better understanding.

Emily Francis: Emily (she/her) PhD candidate with a research focus on human dimensions of natural resources, specifically related to prioritizing Tribal Nations involvement in planning and decision making to solutions of “wicked problems”. Her research with APCAW started with ash seed collection and the need to develop a document for non-researchers to take part in the effort to save seeds. Francis also spearheaded a survey on private landowners’ knowledge and involvement in saving ash on their properties against emerald ash borer (EAB).

Ella McDonald: Ella (she/they) is a non-native Master’s student in Ecology and Environmental Science. With a background in organizing partnerships between conservation groups and Tribal Nations to facilitate land returns, Ella’s interests lie in how to facilitate respectful and effective cross-cultural collaborations for the future of land, forests, and water. Their research questions explore how APCAW can develop effective communication tools to enhance our efforts.

Bridging art, science, and nature to create healthier communities

Presented by Semra Aytur

Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 6:00-7:00 pm

Dr. Aytur will discuss the importance of bridging art, science, and nature to create healthier communities using a ‘planetary health’ lens. She will share her experiences as an epidemiologist and an artist, providing examples of ways to integrate art and science to advance public health and environmental justice. Artistic methods can be blended with nature-based therapeutic interventions to improve physical and mental health. Emerging research suggests that exposure to nature may provide numerous health benefits, including changing brain network connectivity. Collectively, this work underscores the importance of engaging researchers, citizen scientists, Indigenous Peoples, and transdisciplinary stakeholders in the stewardship of health-promoting natural resources.

Semra Aytur, PhD, MPH is a Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Aytur is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on community resilience and the relationships between the built, natural, and social environment in keeping people well. She has published over 70 scientific journal articles and two books on health policy analysis. She uses methods such as Photovoice to connect the humanities with science to improve community health. She is also a visual artist who enjoys using painting to express relationships between health and the environment.

Dr. Aytur earned a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular epidemiology. She also has a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Boston University.

Dr. Aytur serves as the Climate Justice Co-Chair for New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action (NH HWCA) and exhibits her artwork in shows that support community health. She is deeply committed to collaborative learning that bridges the arts and science to create healthier communities.

Arts, Humanities, and Sciences: Emergent, Necessary Unities for Thinking and Dwelling as Humans-Being-on Earth

Presented by David Syring

Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 6:00-7:00 pm

The Oika collaboration at the Museum of the White Mountains, led by Rich Blundell, Rita Leduc, and the Hubbard Brook Forest, represents an exciting shift in understanding ecological realities. In this collaboration Rich, Rita, and the Forest exceed usual approaches to “art-sci” work. Science, art, and being interweave to create an expansive, lively sense of each collaborator as agents in an endeavor of cosmic understanding. This work aligns with an emergent opening up of inquiry related to ecological knowledge.

This presentation and discussion will engage with the exhibit and offer insights from David’s research at Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites where he has spoken with scientists, artists, writers, and thinkers from a variety of disciplines.

Collaboration between scientists, humanities scholars, social scientists, artists, and others simultaneously challenge and potentially reinforce conventional boundaries between scientific research and other ways of knowing. In his 2004 book, Cross-pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry, ecologist and writer Gary Nabhan argues that blending approaches creates better knowledge; insights arise when research opens to diverse ways of asking questions and learning answers.

Environmental science has moved towards more holistic engagements with the arts, humanities, and the social sciences; however, much of this work has seemed something like science accepting other ways of knowing simply to help “tell the stories” or visualize the findings of science. In essence, the model points to asking disciplines other than science to popularize or publicize scientific findings.

The exhibit at the Museum steps aside from this approach and offers an opportunity to think and be otherwise. Artists, humanities scholars, social scientists and others should not only be brought in at the end of projects to tell the story. We have questions, methods, and practices that enlarge knowing in crucial ways that humans need in order to be-in-the world, including at this difficult time of cultural and ecological challenges and climate change.

David Syring, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, writes about cultures of place, the arts, plants and animals in human cultures, food systems, and sustainability. Places in the World a Person Could Walk was a Minnesota Book Award finalist. Since 2005 he has done frequent fieldwork in Ecuador, leading to With the Saraguros: The Blended Life in a Transnational World. He creates videos with Saraguro collaborators. For five years he edited Anthropology and Humanism, and he wrote an overview of humanistic anthropology for the SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology. He is co-editor (with Lauren Miller) of The Routledge Companion to the Anthropology of Performance (2023). He co-founded (with Mitra Emad) the Participatory Media Lab at UMD, which serves as a collaborative space for faculty and students exploring the techniques of critically informed, digitally enhanced social research. Faculty empower students to bring critical thinking and technology skills to the larger community by creating integrated experiences on such topics as regional food systems, arts and community, ethnic identity and diversity in urban environments, water resource issues, interpreting the final statements of death row inmates and more.

During a sabbatical year research project in 2022-23, David has been looking at how Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites integrate arts and humanities inquiry into their work, as well as how LTERs engage Indigenous knowledges and communities.

Penobscot River Restoration: 10 Years After

Presented by Dan McCaw

Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm

Please join the MWM in collaboration with the Pemi Chapter of Trout Unlimited on Tuesday October 24th at 7PM. Dan McCaw, the Fisheries Program Manager for the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine, will present a talk entitled “Penobscot River Restoration: 10 Years After.” The Penobscot River Restoration Project was made internationally famous by its’ depth of collaboration and scope. Two mainstem dams were removed from the Penobscot River and a bypass channel constructed around another. The project was heralded around the world as innovative and a saving grace to multiple species of sea-run fish, to include the United States’ last populations of endangered Atlantic Salmon. The Penobscot Nation’s Fisheries Program Manager talks about the opportunities and challenges that still face the Penobscot River, and critical lessons learned. This event is supported by a National Endowment of the Humanities’ Spotlight on the Humanities grant for Plymouth State University’s Sustainability Studies program.

Dan McCaw was raised in Burnham, Maine and attended the University of Maine in Orono, and worked as a fish biologist from 2001-2010 with the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Since 2011, Dan has worked for the Penobscot Indian Nation’s Department of Natural Resources and works cooperatively with state, federal and NGO partners to protect, conserve and restore the Penobscot River’s migratory and resident fish species and the ecosystems on which they depend.

Pemi-TU Chapter meetings are free and open to the public, all are welcome! We will have raffle tickets available at the meeting to support sponsoring youths to attend the Barry Conservation Camp fishing session (candidates will be selected in January). Email us at with any questions or suggestions.

Making Meaning with the White Mountains

Presented by Artist Rita Leduc, Dr. Rich Blundell, and MWM Director Meghan Doherty

Wednesday, October 4, 6:00-7:00pm

We are living in a time of profound social, ecological and technological change. Each day in the modern world, market-driven media, algorithms and now artificial intelligence are gradually diminishing our evolved capacities to sense, relate to, and make meaning with nature.

Extending Ecology: Making Meaning with the White Mountains is the latest outcome of an ongoing collaboration between an artist, an ecologist, and a forest in the White Mountains. The museum exhibition features visual and textual language that reflects the intelligence reactivated in the collaborators through long-term contemplative and creative immersion in the Hubbard Brook watershed. The project is an attempt to make the intelligence of nature, called Oika, palpable so that it may travel through interdisciplinary channels and back into culture.

In this panel discussion, Dr. Rich Blundell, Rita Leduc, and MWM curator Meghan Doherty delve into ways an experimental relationship between humans and a forest has served as a model for revitalized participation with the world, writ large.

Dr. Rich Blundell is an ecologist whose work explores the convergence of science, art, nature and culture. As the founder of Oika, his research examines how transformation happens across the scales of person, place and planet. As a communicator, Rich tells a scientific story of the universe that includes art and human creativity as natural phenomena. His goal is to make the continuity of nature palpable. Dr. Blundell has received numerous grants and awards including; the ongoing TIDES Innovators, The National Science Foundation grant for Science Out There, the Brinkman Award, The Deep Time Values award, The Macquarie University Innovation in Scholarship Award, an Oculus Creators Award and nomination for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Best New Media for Saving Grey’s Zebra. He is currently the Scientist-in-Residence at the Maria Mitchell Association on Nantucket Island.

Rita Leduc is an interdisciplinary artist who develops relationships with ecosystems through multisensory means. The understanding she gains from this approach informs endeavors on scales from environmental to societal. She is currently pursuing this work through several Oika projects; these include Extending Ecology as well as additional place-based collaborations, workshops, talks, and courses. Additional ongoing engagements include Creator/Director of the interdisciplinary GROUNDWORK retreat and member of The Place Collective, a UK-based creative research community. Leduc’s work has been shown, supported, published, presented, and workshopped widely, most recently at Stand4 Gallery (Brooklyn) and at Maria Mitchell Association (Nantucket). Leduc received her MFA from Mason Gross (Rutgers), Post-Bac Certificate from SAIC, and BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches at Ramapo Collage and Rutgers University.