Since March 2020, I’ve been an Assistant Professor in Strategic Communication at Wageningen University and Research. Prior to that, I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. I do research on agriculture, science and technology, decision-making processes, and the relationship between (living) materials and economic or social change.
I did my PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA, graduating in 2013. My dissertation looked at the apple industry, and the emergence of “club apples” or “managed apple varieties.” These are apples that are owned, produced, and managed by a grower cooperative or, increasingly, private companies. The project aimed to use club apples as a lens to look at the ways that plants influence economic agency, and configure into processes of institutional change. My research continues to use science and technology studies approaches to look at plants, technologies, and capacities for democratic decision-making in food and farming. I look at the relationships between plants, people, and technology through case study research on sustainability modelling programmes, plant breeding, and new AI robotics.
At the moment, I am focusing on four projects:
- People and Plants: How we know ourselves and each other through botanical life. This is an ongoing project that looks at botany and social power through case research on horticultural industries, breeding programs, and new AI technologies that are programmed to interpret and interact with plants.
- MaaraTech: Decision Automation in Orchards and Vineyards. This is a large transdiciplinary project in New Zealand looking at the co-design of new AI robotics for agriculture (https://www.otago.ac.nz/centre-sustainability/research/foodagriculture/otago716888.html). The social science team is looking at co-design processes, and the expected effects of new robotic tech on agriculture
- Changes in hop production. This project has undertaken research in New Zealand, the UK, and Germany to look at the relational effects of the significant increase in aroma hops and aroma hop varieties being grown for craft beer
- Geographic Indicators. This project is looking at the social and economic dynamics between producers of GI foods to understand what makes GIs appealing and unappealing in different contexts
I have also just finished co-editing the Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology with Julie Keller, Michael Bell, and Michael Carolan. (see vol 1 here and vol 2 here)