Research/Publications

I am interested in what could be termed the history of “environmental diplomacy” – combining Canadian-American transnational and relations history with environmental, technological, and modernism history.

My book, Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway is based on my doctoral dissertation and postdoctoral work.  There were several failed attempts at a St. Lawrence agreement in the first half of the 20th century, but in the early Cold War Canada began to pursue an all-Canadian seaway which would work in conjunction with an Ontario-New York hydro-power project. This attempt by Canada to “go it alone” represented the combination of several different forms of nationalism, including a St. Lawrence nationalism that viewed the river as a Canadian birthright and the seaway as an opportunity to exert Canadian independence from the United States. However, for security and economic reasons, the U.S. was not willing to let an all-Canadian waterway come to fruition, pressuring Canada into a joint seaway agreement in 1954.

Between 1954 and 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power was constructed. It would prove to be one of the most monumental engineering achievements of the 20th century, but it also revealed the peak of high modernist conceptions of technology, environment, and society. The project involved turning much of the international stretch of the St. Lawrence River into a lake, flooding over 40,000 acres, and dislocating some 6,500 people on the Canadian side alone. The concomitant rehabilitation effort is an extremely revealing episode in mid-20th century North American history.

I extend many of the same questions from my St. Lawrence research to my current work on Niagara Falls. This research uses the Canadian-American 1950 Niagara Treaty, and its various predecessors, as a means of exploring the process whereby the two states sought to increase water diversions for hydro-electricity while simultaneously “beautifying” the Falls by manipulating their flow and appearance. Given Niagara Falls’ iconic status as the sublime, I argue that this is a revealing tale in the history of North American conceptions of nature, progress, technology, conservation, and environment. I have a book manuscript for this Niagara research, also with UBC Press. I have published a chapter on my Niagara research in a book on the environmental history of Toronto, and a journal article in the October 2013 edition of Environmental History.

I have book chapters on my St. Lawrence and Niagara research coming out in several edited collections. I have presented on my research at various conferences, including the Canadian Historical Association, American Society for Environmental History, Quelques Arpents de Neige, Canadian Science and Technology Historical Association, Society for the History of Technology, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Policy.

I am a co-editor (with Lynne Heasley, University of Western Michigan) of a collection on the history of Canadian-American water relations. Expected publication date is 2015/16. Covering all sides of the continent, this book aims to situate and explore Canadian-U.S. border waters as a central issue shaping the bilateral relationship over the past century. Each chapter will serve as a case study, collectively analyzing the complex ecological, political, economic, and socio-cultural dynamics that have unfolded in trans- and bi-national contexts, while foregrounding the collective importance of these cases in the evolution of environmentalism, environmental law, and ecological management in each country.

As most of my research concerns the International Joint Commission, I have embarked on an effort to write the history of the IJC. I am doing this in tandem with Murray Clamen, the former Secretary of the Canadian Section of the IJC. We have an article coming out in 2015 that looks at the IJC and water levels in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin.

I also utilize GIS mapping in my research. In that vein, I have co-contributed to NiCHE blog series on learning how to use GIS, co-wrote a chapter in a 2014 book on Historical GIS in Canada, and I co-created (with Jim Clifford and Josh McFadyen) an e-textbook on learning HGIS called The Geospatial Historian.

I have previously authored part of an online textbook: the 1945-1963 section of the History of Canada online (http://canadachannel.ca/HCO/index.php/B._Canada_Comes_of_Age_-_1945-1963). I have worked as a researcher for a number of academics, and worked as a researcher for the Documents on Canadian External Relations Series for the Historical Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I am part of the editorial collective for the NiCHE group blog, called “The Otter”.  My M.A. thesis on the ways that Hitler has been represented in film and how that impacts historical memory can be downloaded here: http://library2.usask.ca/theses/available/etd-02272005-152739/

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