2011 Faculty Projects

Kimberlee Chambers

The Complexity of Factors Influencing Commercial Chiltepín Harvesting in the Rio Sonora Valley of Mexico: Habitats, Roads and Relationships

Kimberlee Chambers, Assistant Professor Environmental & Earth Sciences

Last fall (2009) I spent the semester between University of Arizona's Southwest Center and the Rio Sonora Valley in northern Mexico. I was there to conduct research on chiltepins (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum). Chiltepins are a wild relative of domesticated peppers that grow throughout Mexico and in some pockets of the US. In the State of Sonora chiltepins are the predominant ingredient in salsas and are pickled. Harvested in large quantities from the Rio Sonora Valley chiltepins are distributed for commercial sale throughout the region. Not only are chiltepíns culturally and economically valuable but they are an important component of the local ecology. I gathered a diversity of information through in-depth interviews and surveys with harvesters, buyers, and landowners as well as visiting several of the harvesting areas. An interdisciplinary approach to research from both a landscape and human perspective reveals that a diversity of factors influence both the harvest and conservation of this important plant. Land tenure, agricultural potential of land, access to harvesting grounds, and personal relationships are significant in the commercial management and conservation of chiltepins.

The next stage in my research is to analyze the data that I collected and gather and analyze data on the communities and landscapes where I conducted the research. I would like to work with one or two research assistant(s) in the following ways:

  1. Conduct literature searches for a long list of references that I am hoping to use
  2. Using an INEGI data base along with other digital data collected at different agencies while I was in Mexico last fall, find information such as socio-economic and climate data for  the general region and individual communities where I researched;
  3. Work with me to analyze the data and present it in table and graph format
  4. Enter data from household surveys that I collected in the Fall 2009 and work with me to do summary statistics. Present data in graph and table formats;
  5. Depending on the student and time availability, write collaboratively based on some of the above data.

Working with student research assistants would give me the chance to not only teach students about some of the methods used by geographers and my research specifically but really contribute to the amount of work that we as a team could accomplish. I have worked with several students in the three years that I have been at Willamette and I found the experiences to be rewarding on a personal level as well as the end product being research that I could not have accomplished on my own.

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David Craig

The Big Picture on a Big Tern

David Craig, Associate Professor of Biology, Department Chair

After more than a decade of research I am among the world's foremost experts on a one of the world's most cosmopolitan birds - the Caspian Tern.  I study the diet, behavior, and movement ecology of this species around the world, especially along the west coast from British Columbia, Canada to the far end of Oaxaca, Mexico.  I use old school ‘bird watching' as well as cutting edge satellite telemetry and Web 2.0 peer-to-peer sharing technology to create discoveries that merit external grants and publications. I am searching for collaborators outside of the sciences to help me interpret and analyze a complex story of how a fairly uncommon seabird may be an especially compelling ‘narrator' of climate change.  I believe Caspian Terns are ‘a canary in the mineshaft' in search of composers, painters, photographers, sociologists, creative writers, historians, journalists, or philosophers who can give context, and original interpretation to the conflicts and patterns around this bird today. 

What can I provide?

I have 25 years of experience in the field, hundreds of professional connections, and all of the necessary permits to live on and visit remote and restricted sites used by Caspian Terns. Since 1997 I have been part of a diverse team of scientists and policy makers trying to understand why this bird, the world's largest tern, has established the world's largest colony at the mouth of the Columbia River.  A primary prey item in the diet of these terns has been juvenile salmon trying to pass through the estuary.  The islands the terns breed on were created to deepen the river channel to keep Portland a competitive ‘seaport', the salmon are born in hatcheries to compensate for the damage of dams and the cheap power we enjoy from hydropower, and the terns have aggregated at one place because we have taken the water from their historical wetlands of the interior West.   The ‘simple' conflict between birds and fish has a complex origin.   The real and perceived intensity of the conflict has yielded 13 years of journalism including coverage from the NPR, OPB, CNN, KATU, Wall Street Journal, Outside Magazine, National Geographic, High Country News, The Oregonian, Seattle Intelligencer, San Francisco Examiner, and countless local papers along the West coast. Millions of dollars have been spent, new islands created, old islands modified, as the government has tried to manipulate Caspian Terns to breed where they are ‘not a problem.'  Every year the terns have done something unexpected creating a ‘new problems' and Summer 2011 has the promise to be especially exciting.

What am I searching for in Summer 2011?

I want hard working creative partners with who will bring big epistemological turns to my work on big terns. As graduate of the liberal arts myself, I have conducted research constantly considering connections to other disciplines. My 2011 LARC partners need to have demonstrable talent in their selected field which will make them an authentic partner. For students this might include a great paper or creative project created in a recent class.  I will connect my LARC partners to my circle of non-Willamette friends and colleagues which includes journalist, novelists, free-lance writers, film makers, painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, composers, sociologists, historians, policy wonks, educators, and anthropologists.  Students who are considering post-graduate training are of particular interest to me.

What do I hope to produce by Winter 2011?

My partners and I will create work that is explicitly on a trajectory to be published or displayed in some external peer-reviewed product of scholarship or outreach within 3-18 months.  I have a wide variety of collected historical and creative material from the arts, humanities, and social sciences that I hope to share with potential partners to give them a sense of the possibility for originality when the work of scientists is critically considered by nonscientists.

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Amber Davisson

Political Narratives and New Media

Amber Davisson, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric

The past two presidential election cycles saw an explosion in campaigns use of new media. David Gutterman, Amber Davisson, and Stanislav Vysotsky are exploring the political narratives that develop through the use of these technologies. Their research centers on questions of intentionality and control.

Dr. Gutterman is looking at how politicians craft long term narratives using multiple campaign tools. Dr. Davisson's work draws on literature from rhetoric and technology studies to explore how new media tools and environments shape the messages produced by political campaigns. Dr. Vysotsky's research focuses on the way in which discourse is framed and constructed within extreme-right Internet forums and its overlaps with discourse in more mainstream political movements.

This research community is interested in how campaigns use technology and how some technologies begin to produce narratives that may alter political campaigns. The group will work together to explore the challenges new media poses for political actors attempting to produce a consistent message. Students working with this research community could develop a variety of projects from exploring the narrative potential and constraints of Twitter to working with a  local political group to develop a new media campaign, from developing systems for measuring the use and political impact of new media to crafting design projects  that explore the changing relationship between narrative content and  technology triggered by new media.

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Ellen Eisenberg

American Jewish Identity on a Pacific Northwest Stage

Ellen Eisenberg, Dwight & Margaret Lear Professor of American History; On Sabbatical Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

During the second half of the 20th century, American Jewish identity was strongly tied to three key historical memories. First, the catastrophe that was the Holocaust was a central focus, underscoring the need to remember and to guard against anti-Semitism. Second was an embrace of Zionism and Israel as a response to the Holocaust and-particularly after the Six Day War- as a vital element of American Jewish identity. Along with these, American Jews embraced a retelling of their own story, one featuring immigration, struggle, and, ultimately, triumph-- and centered on the iconic image of the (by then no longer intact) Lower East Side of New York. Each of these, the Holocaust, Israel/Zionism, and the Lower East Side became central touchstones of American Jewish identity.¹

This essay will examine the ways in which these themes were articulated locally by Oregon Jews. How did Jews in a region so remote relate to these touchstones?  If, for example, the Lower East Side experience was the iconic place of American Jewry, how did Jews living in a region considered the antithesis of the New York² negotiate the disjuncture between regional and ethnic identities? To what extent did they incorporate each of these touchstones into local practice and programming?

This essay will draw on institutional holdings from the Portland JCC, educational programs, youth groups, and synagogues around the state, and the Jewish press to examine the ways in which these connections were expressed and adapted to local conditions. How did these historical memories and Jewish identities play out on the regional stage in the Pacific West?


¹The centrality of the Holocaust, Zionism/Israel, and the Lower East Side to American Jewish identity has been well documented. Although is has been conventional wisdom that the Holocaust did not become a focus until the 1960s, this has been recently disputed by Hasia Diner in We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962 (New York: NYU Press, 2009). Diner is also the author of a critical work on the place of the Lower East Side in American Jewish historical memory. See Diner, Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

²Diner has argued that "New York" came in the late 20th century to represent the essence of "what it means to be Jewish in America," while "the West" was "the essence of America".  These strong associations have made the idea of a "Jewish West" seem comedic or oxymoronic. See Diner "American West, New York Jewish" in Jewish Life in the American West, Ava F. Kahn, ed. (Autry Museum & University of Washington Press, 2002), 33-52.

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David Gutterman

Political Narratives and New Media

David Gutterman, Associate Professor of Politics; Department Chair

The past two presidential election cycles saw an explosion in campaigns use of new media. David Gutterman, Amber Davisson, and Stanislav Vysotsky are exploring the political narratives that develop through the use of these technologies. Their research centers on questions of intentionality and control.

Dr. Gutterman is looking at how politicians craft long term narratives using multiple campaign tools. Dr. Davisson's work draws on literature from rhetoric and technology studies to explore how new media tools and environments shape the messages produced by political campaigns. Dr. Vysotsky's research focuses on the way in which discourse is framed and constructed within extreme-right Internet forums and its overlaps with discourse in more mainstream political movements.

This research community is interested in how campaigns use technology and how some technologies begin to produce narratives that may alter political campaigns. The group will work together to explore the challenges new media poses for political actors attempting to produce a consistent message. Students working with this research community could develop a variety of projects from exploring the narrative potential and constraints of Twitter to working with a  local political group to develop a new media campaign, from developing systems for measuring the use and political impact of new media to crafting design projects  that explore the changing relationship between narrative content and  technology triggered by new media.

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Lynn Makau

Absence and Amnesia: Slavery's Literary Legacy in Public Memory

Lynn Makau, Assistant Professor of English

This research project will question selective public memory of 19th-century southern plantation culture as well as resistance to its literary representation, which Sharon Holland, writing about Toni Morrison's neoslave narrative, Beloved, identifies as the "subconscious machinations [of the American imaginary] to disremember a shared past." Using Edward P. Jones' epic, The Known World (winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), and its challenge to conventional epistemologies of U.S. slavery as a case study, we will examine the potential of historical fiction to recall the past via representations of absence, amnesia, and myopia about and within antebellum America and its modern, interracial descendant.

Research goals will include discovering what leads to willful ignorance about this history given its account in well-known slave narratives as compared to its representation in contemporary fiction. Thus we will explore questions of historiography alongside rhetorical, literary, and reader-response theories. By engaging questions of narrative documentation of traumatic experience peculiar to American slavery, this project builds off my previous work with public memory and will serve as a capstone to my manuscript-in-progress, Peculiar Intimacies: Reading the Unspeakable in Historical Fictions of the Antebellum Age.

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Cecily McCaffrey

Public histories, private lives: Asian Pacific Americans in the Pacific Northwest

Cecily McCaffrey, Associate Professor of History; Department Co-Chair Fall 2014

This research project will focus on the intersections between the public histories of Asian Pacific Americans in the Pacific Northwest and the personal narratives of individual migrants and their descendants. In this initial stage of the project, specific attention would be given to public histories related specifically to place, whether as represented by the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon, the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, Washington, or the physical collection of archival materials held in the Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library in Vancouver, Canada.

Research into individual biographies, memoirs, and personal correspondence would accordingly be circumscribed by the selected geographic focus. The aim of the project is to interrogate the categories utilized in public histories through the juxtaposition and comparison of individual experiences and personal interpretations with the public narrative, with the ultimate intent of uncovering th relationship between individual identities, "group" memories, and public histories.

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Cindy Koenig Richards

Traditional Practices, Transformed Identities

Cindy Koenig Richards, Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Media Studies (CCM)

What role do the conventional beliefs and activities of citizens play in the transformation of their identities and actions? This research project will explore that question by investigating how women who migrated to the Pacific Northwest used traditional practices to develop progressive political identities for themselves and the region. Preliminary research suggests that despite the benign appearance of conventionally feminine activities such as the development of community cookbooks, such activities contributed to radical changes in the early twentieth century Northwest. By recovering records of such practices, situating them in geographical and historical context, and tracing their effects, this project will illuminate the dynamic relationship between tradition and transformation, as well as the relationship between private, political, and community identities.

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Michael Strelow

Creative Non-Fiction: Writing the Natural World

Michael Strelow, Professor of English

As well as an ecological novel, The Greening of Ben Brown (2005, Hawthorne Books) and poetry in a number of literary magazines, my academic and creative writing in recent years has been informed by ecology and eco-criticism, greening as an idea, global warming, community structure and activism, clean water, chemical spills, rivers, etc.  I have been writing creative non-fiction for the last few years.  You can find a sample of it in the wildflower article  published last year in Oregon Quarterly.  I have had another article on estuaries accepted by the same magazine. I have three books in print: An Anthology of Northwest Writing: 1900-1950, Kesey (a source materials book about Oregon author, Ken Kesey) and the novel above.

What is creative non-fiction?  The non-fiction part is in the facts, but the creative part is in the telling.  John McPhee, Barry Lopez, Greta Erlich, Mary Clearman Blew, Annie Dillard, Robin Cody, Kathleen Dean Moore are some of the contemporary authors practicing the craft of creative non-fiction.  Joseph Wood Krutch, John Muir, John Burroughs, Thoreau, Alexander von Humbolt are a few of the American writers who engaged nature through personal experience in the 19th century and first practiced the mode of creative non-fiction. 

My current projects include articles on: small towns in Oregon, (mis)naming in the natural world (or taxonomy and common names gone wrong-headed) and an extension of my work on estuaries and sea birds.  I'm finishing a novel about water and beer-the raw and the cooked-in 19th century Portland based loosely on the life of brewer Henry Weinhard.

I have been working with David Craig where he wrote:  "My partners and I will create work that is explicitly on a trajectory to be published or displayed in some external peer-reviewed product of scholarship or outreach within 3-18 months.  I have a wide variety of collected historical and creative material from the arts, humanities, and social sciences that I hope to share with potential partners to give them a sense of the possibility for originality when the work of scientists is critically considered by nonscientists."  And I would add that partners who might be interested in the creative non-fiction version of research work toward publication in an external, reviewed periodical like Portland Monthly, North American Review, or Outside magazines, periodicals that publish accurate and engaging writing on the natural world in any of its aspects.

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Stanislav Vysotsky

Political Narratives and New Media

Stanislav Vysotsky, Assistant Professor of Sociology

The past two presidential election cycles saw an explosion in campaigns use of new media. David Gutterman, Amber Davisson, and Stanislav Vysotsky are exploring the political narratives that develop through the use of these technologies. Their research centers on questions of intentionality and control.

Dr. Gutterman is looking at how politicians craft long term narratives using multiple campaign tools. Dr. Davisson's work draws on literature from rhetoric and technology studies to explore how new media tools and environments shape the messages produced by political campaigns. Dr. Vysotsky's research focuses on the way in which discourse is framed and constructed within extreme-right Internet forums and its overlaps with discourse in more mainstream political movements.

This research community is interested in how campaigns use technology and how some technologies begin to produce narratives that may alter political campaigns. The group will work together to explore the challenges new media poses for political actors attempting to produce a consistent message. Students working with this research community could develop a variety of projects from exploring the narrative potential and constraints of Twitter to working with a  local political group to develop a new media campaign, from developing systems for measuring the use and political impact of new media to crafting design projects  that explore the changing relationship between narrative content and  technology triggered by new media.

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Megan Ybarra

Living on Scorched Earth

Megan Ybarra, Assistant Professor of Politics

In recent years, Guatemala's lowlands have been the source of debates and development projects to "save the Maya Forest," including reforestation to offset climate change. This research will use the interdisciplinary approach of political ecology to examine how conservation practice affects the politics of land tenure in post-war Guatemala. Given that a major part of the civil war involved calls for agrarian reform to address unequal land distribution, how do contemporary global agendas to fight climate change and deforestation affect local and national struggles over land? Specifically, we will use an INFORPRESS news article archive to trace counterinsurgency histories and the emergence of the idea of the lowland jungle as a "Maya Forest." 

¡Belice es Nuestro! explores a twenty-first century border dispute. While the UK granted Belize independence in 1982, Guatemala did not recognize Belize for ten years, claiming this would only formalize injustices perpetrated by "British pirates." This research will examine the production of national postcolonial identities, as well as the marginalities of ethnic peoples (Q'eqchi's and Garífuna) who bridge national borders. Together, our goal is to compile a historical review of the legal dispute between Guatemala, the UK and Belize; and analyze the role the dispute plays in borderlands identities.

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