A Coffee Conversation in Environmental History

Thursday, October 12, 2017
HGS 105
Nancy Langston, Michigan Technological University

Join us for an informal discussion about new directions in environmental history with Nancy Langston, a leading environmental historian based at Michigan Technological University, past editor of Environmental History and past president of the American Society for Environmental History. Langston recently finished a book on climate change and toxics in the Lake Superior basin titled  Sustaining Lake Superior (Yale University Press, Fall 2017). The book will be available in September 2017.

Langston’s next project will explore climate change and animal migrations, focused on the upper Great Lakes. How has climate change affected the movements of three iconic species of the northern forest: woodland caribou, coaster brook trout, and  loons? These species were once abundant in the Great Lakes region, but habitat change, toxics, and over-hunting decimated their populations by the early 20th century. Conservation efforts recovered breeding populations of loons,  but woodland caribou are now ghost species throughout much of their former range. On a few islands along the north coast of Lake Superior, vigorous populations persist, but climate change threatens their populations. Coaster brook trout are hanging on in a few runs, but their future is equally uncertain.  How have the relationships between humans and these other species been influenced by climate change? How do animal migrations influence the mobilizations of toxics into distant spaces, and how does climate change in turn affect toxic mobility? Can restoring these species help in the fight against climate change? 

Langston’s previous books include:

  • An environmental history of Malheur Wildlife Refuge titled Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed (University of Washington Press, 2003). Where Land and Water Meet focuses on dilemmas over riparian management in the West, and offers solutions to the conflicts that have paralyzed land management. 


  • A history of endocrine disruptors: Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES, (Yale University Press  2010). Toxic Bodies examines the history of synthetic chemicals that disrupt hormones and the struggle for a precautionary principle to protect human and environmental health.
Since July 2013, Langston has been a professor at Michigan Technological University, part of the Great Lakes Research Center and the Department of Social Sciences. During 2012-2013, she was the King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor of Environmental Science at Umeå University in Sweden. Before that, she was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 17 years, with appointments in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology.