Environmental Studies

Peter Cannavò, Associate Professor of Government

A.B., Harvard University; M.P.A., Princeton University; Ph.D., Harvard University
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Areas of expertise: environmental political theory, republican political thought, environmental politics, land use politics, political geography and climate change

Peter F. Cannavò is the author of The Working Landscape: Founding, Preservation, and the Politics of Place. He contributed to the volumes The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory, The Encyclopedia of Political Theory, The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice and Political Theory and Global Climate Change. He is co-editor (with Joseph H. Lane, Jr.) of Engaging Nature: Environmentalism, Concepts of Nature, and the Study of the Political Theory Canon, a collection on environmental insights from the political theory canon. He is currently writing To the Thousandth Generation, a book about the theoretical and historical connections between environmentalism and civic republicanism in the U.S. Cannavò has published in various peer-reviewed journals, including Environmental Politics, Environmental Values, and Political Theory, and has also contributed opinion pieces to several media outlets, including The Huffington Post and USA Today. Cannavò works and teaches in the areas of political theory; environmental theory, politics, and history; geography and the politics of place; and ethics and public policy. He is currently Director of Hamilton’s Environmental Studies Program.

Carolyn Barrett Dash, Visiting Assistant Professor of Geosciences

B.A., Kenyon College; Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Areas of expertise: ecosystem and disturbance ecology, climate change and paleoecology

Carolyn (Barrett) Dash is interested in the interactions between vegetation communities, landscape, climate change and disturbance regimes – and in applying this knowledge to anticipate and plan for future change. More generally, she focuses her research on understanding the patterns and controls of ecosystem change across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Dash received her bachelor's degree in biology from Kenyon College and a doctorate in ecology, evolution and conservation biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Heather Merrill, Professor of Africana Studies

B.A., New York University; M.A., Teachers College Columbia University; M.A., University of Chicago; M.A. and Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
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Areas of expertise: critical human geography; race, place, and belonging in Italy, Black Europe, and the U.S.; gender and intersectionality; African Diasporic politics and identity in Italy; Blackness and anti-blackness

Heather Merrill's research examines place, race, identity and the social transformation of Europe in relation to the African Diaspora. She is a critical human geographer whose theoretical work is grounded in ethnography of African Diaspora in Italy. Merrill is currently completing a book on anti-blackness and Blackness in Italy and the  emergence of Black Spaces. Her book publications are Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday (co-edited), 2015; and An Alliance of Women: Immigration and the Politics of Race. She came to Hamilton College from Dickinson College, where she taught and was executive director of the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues. Merrill completed her doctoral work in human geography at the University of California, Berkeley.

Angel David Nieves, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Co-Director, Digital Humanities Initiative

B. Arch., Syracuse University; M.A., Binghamton University; Ph.D., Cornell University
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Areas of expertise: race and the built environment, digital humanities, spatial humanities, heritage preservation, urban history, South Africa and Southern Africa, truth and reconciliation in post-conflict countries and diaspora studies

Angel David Nieves codirects Hamilton's Digital Humanities Initiative. He completed his doctoral work in architectural history and Africana studies at Cornell University. Nieves coedited the book, ‘We Shall Independent Be:’ African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S., and is associate editor of Fire!!!: A Multimedia Journal of Black Studies, among other work. MSNBC.com and Newsweek have featured his digital research and scholarship. Nieves’ scholarly work and community-based activism engages with issues of memory, heritage preservation, gender and nationalism at the intersections of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South.

William Pfitsch, Associate Professor of Biology

B.A., Oberlin College; M.S., University of Washington; Ph.D., University of Washington
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Areas of expertise: the biology, ecology, physiological ecology and physiology of plants; community, ecosystem and invasive plant ecologies; habitat restoration; tropical and alpine ecologies; and biology teaching

William Pfitsch studies how plants meet the challenges of living in potentially stressful conditions. Of particular interest are the interactions with soil microorganisms that help plants meet those challenges. In recent years, research in the Pfitsch lab has also focused on the ecological implications of invasive plants in local forests in terms of community composition and ecosystem structure and function. He earned his doctorate in botany at the University of Washington.


Alexandra Plakias '02, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

B.A., Hamilton College; M.A., University of California, Santa Cruz; Ph.D., University of Michigan
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Areas of expertise: metaethics, moral psychology and ethics

Originally from New York City, Alexandra Plakias graduated from Hamilton College in 2002 before moving to Santa Cruz, Calif., where she received a master’s from the University of California. She then completed her doctorate at the University of Michigan and spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland. Her research focuses on issues in moral psychology, such as the role of evolution and culture in our moral values. She has also written about moral relativism and about the role of empirical research in philosophical theorizing.

Frank Sciacca, the Christian A. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Associate Professor of German and Russian Languages and Literatures (Russian)

B.A., Columbia College; M.A., Columbia University; Ph.D., Columbia University
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Areas of expertise: Russian language, 20th-century Russian literature and art, Russian Orthodox Church, Russian and Ukrainian folklore and folk culture, food politics and culture

Franklin Sciacca has lectured extensively on Russian Orthodox iconography and East Slavic folklore. He has contributed articles to Slavic Review, Nabokov Almanac, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, and Journal of the Slavic, East European and Eurasian Folklore Association. Sciacca's ongoing research interests include the history of Pochayiv Monastery and the ritual function of textiles in Ukrainian folkways. He has been a faculty member at Hamilton since 1984 and earned a doctorate and master's from Columbia University.

P. Gary Wyckoff, Professor of Government

B.A., Macalester College; Ph.D., University of Michigan
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Areas of expertise: health, education and welfare policy, evidence in public-policy decisions, empirical studies of happiness and well-being, the application of quantitative analysis to decision-making

An economist by training, Paul Gary Wyckoff's current research focuses on the empirical foundations of public sector decision-making. He is the author of Policy and Evidence in a Partisan Age: The Great Disconnect, published by the Urban Institute Press. He is working on a book manuscript titled Radical Empiricism, which highlights personal, business and public policies that conflict with the best available evidence. Wyckoff serves as executive editor of Insights, Hamilton's undergraduate social science journal. He received a doctorate from the University of Michigan, is a professor of government and the director of the Public Policy Program at Hamilton.