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Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources
(307) 766-5037 | email@example.com | Kendall House, Rm 203
PhD, American Studies, University of New Mexico
MS, Communications, Ohio University
Melanie Armstrong is an Associate Professor in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and Director of the Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming.
Her work embodies principles of engaged scholarship, interdisciplinarity, and co-production of knowledge, and is grounded in research on how societal systems are built around shifting ideologies of nature. Applied projects include collaborations with the US Forest Service to study recreation users’ experiences and managers’ approaches to prescribed fire in wilderness, as well as leading community engagement around the largest timber sale on the Gunnison National Forest. She facilitated a team of students in a project with the National Park Service to research, design, and test a digital Junior Ranger program for the National Historic Trails. As a 2020 National Geographic Explorer, she studied how Native American treaty rights influence resource management, then developed a curriculum around co-management of public lands and hosted a field school at Bears Ears National Monument.
In 2018, Armstrong founded the Center for Public Lands at Western Colorado University, where she also taught for seven years in the Master in Environmental Management Program. This training and resource center is a hub for cross-boundary work and study, supporting diverse action for public lands through community-based collaboration and education. The Center aims to prepare a new generation of land stewards with talent, vision, and energy to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving social and ecological climate. The Center for Public Lands has undertaken more than 30 projects that engage governments and communities to enable creative, science-driven responses to land management challenges, generating research and other products that are used extensively by managers at all levels, while also creating networks of stakeholders who work together effectively.
Her research uses fine-grained ethnography and historical research to study how nature transforms social relations. She is author of Germ Wars: The Politics of Nature and America’s Landscape of Fear (University of California Press, 2017) and coauthor of Environmental Realism: Challenging Solutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Environmental Realism examines how solutions-oriented language limits collective action, arguing that new ways of thinking and speaking about environmental issues are vital to addressing modern socio-environmental challenges. Germ Wars presents a similar scrutiny of environmental landscapes, showing how massive expenditures on disease control throughout human history emerge from the belief that nature—in this case microbes—can be managed through cultural practices.
Armstrong’s interdisciplinary training includes a doctorate in American studies (University of New Mexico), master’s degree in communications (Ohio University), postdoctoral work in environmental history (University of California, Davis) and cultural geography (University of California, Berkeley), and a 15-year career with the National Park Service. Her agency work provided a laboratory for exploring how deep-seated ideas of nature are inscribed in the landscapes of the West and Southwest, informing her teaching and scholarship, and building her desire to understand how powerful stories of nature shape the modern social experience. She teaches courses on public lands, environmental policy, politics of nature, management skills, and environmental history. Her goal as a teacher is to inspire students to be critical thinkers and communicators who are driven to work for justice in whatever career they pursue. She aims to create classrooms that forge transformative interactions with the world at large.