Current Fellowship Recipients

2017-2018 Pruitt Dissertation Fellowship Recipients

Samayita Bandyopadhya is a doctoral candidate at Oklahoma State University, Department of Geography.  Her research explores how land-use/land-cover changes (LULCC) impact landslide disasters in Kurseong, a district subdivision in the Indian Himalayas. Her research also explores the underlying socio-economic and political drivers of LULCC that influence local vulnerability and resilience. Grounded in an Integrated Land Change Science—Political Ecology framework, the research employs a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to: 1) identify and monitor land system changes critical to landslides; and 2) explore complex human adaptations at local and institutional levels that together impact people’s vulnerability to recurring landslide disasters. A deeper understanding of the human dimensions of vulnerability aims to inform effective policies to foster resilience in a disaster-prone region.

Kelsey Brain is a doctoral candidate in Geography and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Her research investigates how the arrival of relatively privileged, amenity-seeking migrants from North America and Europe to rural Latin American communities is impacting local land use, livelihoods, and social equity. Applying feminist political ecology and critical race analytics to the emerging study of amenity-oriented migration to Latin America, she examines the impacts of growing numbers of amenity migrants on a community of Afro-descendants in Costa Rica’s Caribbean region, a community that has historically experienced isolation and marginalization from government-led development initiatives and is now becoming a popular destination for foreign tourists and amenity migrants.

Marianne Dietz is a doctoral student in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences with a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems at Louisiana State University. Her research focus is using geologic evidence of past storms to reconstruct coastal environmental conditions during hurricane landfalls. She will use a combination of geochemical analyses and remote sensing data to investigate the various processes that drive sediment transport and deposition during storm events. The goal of her research is to understand how hurricanes have affected coastal environments in the past in order to predict the potential impacts of future storms.

Carolyn Fish is a PhD Candidate at Pennsylvania State University. Her dissertation research examines how expert cartographers in the news media and government agencies design climate change maps for the public. The goal of her research is to understand: 1) the current state of climate change maps in media—where they are produced, what they illustrate, and how they illustrate climate change; 2) the goals of the cartographers who design these maps and how they fulfill these goals; and 3) how map users view the effectiveness of cartographic communication of climate change. Carolyn’s research will demonstrate the importance of maps in climate change communication, as well as inform cartographic best practices. 

Sơn Ca Lâm is a PhD Candidate in the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University. She has her MA in Applied Linguistics, and dual BA in Comparative Ethnic Studies and Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She is interested in how people (re)construct home in new places after displacement, due to global catastrophes such as war. Her research examines the everyday home-making practices of Vietnamese refugee families across geographic space (in Việt Nam and the US) and three generations of women (grandmothers, daughters, and granddaughters) to understand the impact of displacement on language practices that establish a sense of home. Repositioning vulnerable refugee women as cultural agents, this research highlights how the taken-for-granted work of home-making anchors the (re)construction of home for a diasporic people. She hopes this multi-generational research can offer an asset-based framework for the provision of services that promote empowerment and healing to increase long-term integration prospects for refugees.

Leah Montange calls Seattle, WA her home. She holds a BA in Philosophy and Gender & Sexuality Studies from New York University and an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from University of Washington, Tacoma. Leah is currently thrilled to be a PhD Candidate in Geography at the University of Toronto. Her research concerns immigration detention and border control as these relate to labor control and daily life in the US and Spanish interiors. She has been an advocate and an activist for workers’ rights, anti-war, anti-racist, and feminist causes for the majority of her life.

Carly Nichols is a geographer who works across human-environment, health, and feminist geography. She has long been compelled by the complex iterative processes between environmental change, social relations, and human health and wellbeing. Specifically, she uses feminist research methods to elucidate the interactions between changing agro-ecological landscapes, multi-scalar political economic processes of development, and the embodied and intimate health perceptions of smallholder farmers. Throughout this work she finds that a central element of analysis is the primacy of unpaid, gendered care work to both environmental and human health outcomes.

Her current research investigates how nutrition has gained ascendance on the global health agenda, and a new generation of “nutrition-sensitive” agriculture programs are being implemented and accepted in the everyday lives of people in several North Indian villages. The problem of malnutrition is inherently multi-factorial, which means the strategies to tackle it are equally impressive in number. While one arm advocates for “technical” fixes such as nutrition behavior change and deworming programs; another prefers using limited resources for working for systemic change such as reshaped social norms and access to quality food. Her project investigates the combination of the two strategies, and is a rich site to understand their differential impact on villagers’ everyday lives and identities.

Josie Wittmer is a doctoral candidate in the collaborative Geography and International Development Studies program at the University of Guelph in Canada. Her dissertation research explores the health and livelihood experiences of women waste pickers in the city of Ahmedabad, India. Her work investigates and documents the ways that recent waste management policies and planning initiatives impact the everyday lives of these women workers, as well as the individual and collective coping and resistance strategies that the women employ to maintain their access to waste materials. The Pruitt will support a second research trip to Ahmedabad to build on previous data collection, to hold workshops with research participants, and to engage with networks of local organizations, activists, and academics on issues around gender, informality, and waste management in Indian cities. 

 2017-2018 Pruitt Minority Fellowship Recipient

Mia Dawson is a geographer and activist working to radically reimagine the relationship between environment, race, science, and technology in the United States. She grounds her work in a rich history of black activism, especially black feminism. Mia earned her BA from Oberlin College where she studied biology and geology. After graduating, she worked with the Bureau of Land Management on Seeds of Success, a nationwide native plant restoration program.

Mia is currently a master’s student in the Geography Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. She is developing applications of geographic technology to bring equity and justice to the forefront of environmental decision-making. In this effort, she collaborates with research teams in the UC Davis Center for Regional Change on two projects: one project involves the use of spatial data to inform legal advocacy for equitable access to clean drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley; the other project predicts neighborhood-level health impacts of proposed changes to transportation infrastructure in Sacramento County.  In these efforts and in her post-graduate career, Mia is dedicated to building coalitions that jointly pursue social justice and environmental improvement.


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