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Academic Writing and Research


"The Age of Lead: Metropolitan Change, Environmental Health and Inner City Underdevelopment" (PhD Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2017)

How the suburbs poisoned the inner city with lead.

“The Age of Lead” examines the relationship between metropolitan development and lead poisoning in Baltimore from the late-nineteenth century to the late-twentieth century. In particular, I trace how concerns about environmental health in the city fostered the desire for suburban living, but how suburbanization deepened and even caused disparities in lead hazards between the suburbs and the inner city.

More broadly, the dissertation explores how people made decisions about the costs and benefits of metropolitan development and technological change. It is about who had the power to make or influence these decisions and who benefited from those decisions and who was hurt by them. It is also about knowledge: what people knew about environmental disparities, what they did not know, and how and why they came to have knowledge or ignorance of issues.

Table of Contents

  1. Lead and Industrialization in the Monumental City
  2. The Depression Disease: Suburban Expansion, Energy Inequality, and America’s First Child Lead Poisoning Epidemic
  3. The Rise of Child Lead Paint Poisoning: Medical Knowledge and the Metropolitan Ecology of Paint
  4. White Lead and White Flight: Suburbanization, Inner City Lead Paint Hazards, and Slumlord Capitalism in Baltimore
  5. Healthy Housing and the Health of the State: Clearance, Codes and the Struggle to Eliminate Lead Paint Poisoning
  6. The Gas That Makes the Hills in High Gear: Tetraethyl Lead, Automobile Pollution, and the Co-Production of Urban and Suburban Environments
  7. The Poisonous Umbilical Cord: Leaded Gasoline and the Commuter-Polluter Suburbs
  8. Expressway Solutions and Freeway Failures: Automobile Pollution, Housing Deterioration and Interstate Protests
  9. Metropolitan Ecology and Exposure: Lead Hazards in Twentieth-Century Baltimore
  10. Toxic Consequences: Lead Effects in Twentieth-Century Baltimore

Articles and Chapters

"Paving the Way for Trump: Past Presidential Assaults on Environmental Health Protection," American Journal of Public Health, (forthcoming). By Leif Fredrickson, Christopher Sellers, Phil Brown, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Nicholas Shapiro, Marianne Sullivan, Chris Amoss, Stephen Bocking, Vanessa De La Rosa, Lindsey Dillon, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Emily Marquez, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter, Sara Wylie, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative

The Trump administration's assault on environmental health protection is in some ways unparalleled, but it is not without some historical precedents. In particular, the current administration has combined strategies for undermining environmental health from the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. The current political context is, however, different in ways that are deeply concerning, but in some cases also offer some reasons for hope.
The Trump administration has undertaken an assault on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency critical to environmental health. This assault has precedents in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The early Reagan administration (1981-1983) launched an overt attack on the EPA, combining deregulation with budget and staff cuts, while the George W. Bush administration (2001-2008) adopted a subtler approach, undermining science-based policy. The current administration combines both these strategies. It also operates in a political context more favorable to the new administration’s designs on this agency. The Republican Party has shifted to the right, and now controls the executive and both chambers of Congress. Wealthy donors, think tanks, and fossil fuel and chemical industries have become more influential in pushing deregulation. Among the public, political polarization has increased, the environment has become a partisan issue, and large sections of the public distrust science and the mainstream media. For these reasons, the effects of today’s ongoing regulatory delays, rollbacks, and staff cuts may well surpass those of the administrations of Reagan and George W. Bush, whose impacts on environmental health were considerable.

"The Riot Environment: Sanitation, Recreation and Pacification in the Wake of Baltimore's 1968 Uprising," Baltimore Revisited: Rethinking and Remaking an American City, Nicole King and Kate Drabinski, eds. (forthcoming from Rutgers University Press).

How the city of Baltimore and the Department of Defense tried to change the environment of inner city youth in order to avert urban civil disturbances after the 1968 uprising in Baltimore.
This chapter focuses on programs put in place after the 1968 uprising in Baltimore that were related to the inner city environment. Some of these programs were about cleaning up that environment and providing better recreation. Others were about taking children out of the inner city to experience a better environment. Camp Concern, which brought children to a Navy Base for the summer, was an example of the latter. It was the brainchild of black community leaders, but was also promoted by the Department of Defense as part of a larger program of domestic pacification. There were deep tensions in these and otehr programs between the rationale of providing quality environments for social justice and the rationale of providing these programs for social control.

"The Rise and Fall of an Ecostar: Green Technology Innovation and Marketing as Regulatory Obstruction," Green Capitalism? Exploring the Crossroads of Environmental and Business History, Hartmut Berghoff and Adam Rome , eds. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).
(External Link - Publisher)

How Ford invested in electric cars so that it would not have to sell electric cars.
In the 1990s, the Ford Motor Company pursued electric vehicle technology and testing as a way to establish itself as an authority on the technology so that it could fight against California's Zero Emission Vehicle policy that required automobile companies to produce and sell electric vehicles.

"Bio-Invasions and Bio-Fixes: Mysid Shrimp Introductions in the Twentieth Century," Environment and History vol. 23, no.2, 2017.
(External Link - Paywall)

How natural resource managers tried to use the mysis shrimp to "fix" fisheries, spreading this relatively isolated species to hundreds of lakes where it became an "invasive" species.
Natural research managers, flummoxed by their inability to find a “techno-fix” – a cheap, simple solution to a complex issue – to the problem of fish productivity, discovered a “bio-fix” in a small, wild shrimp that they believed could yield record-breaking trout and salmon for sportfishers. Like techno-fixes, however, this fix had unintended – though not unforeseeable – consequences. In many cases, it completely destroyed the fisheries it was intended to bolster.

"From Ecocide to Eco-ally: Picloram, Herbicidal Warfare, and Invasive Species, 1963-2005," Global Environment, vol. 7, no. 1, 2014.
(External Link - Paywall) (Download Preprint)

How environmentalists came to embrace picloram, a pesticide that had once been the foremost candidate for destroying the earth.
This article is a history of picloram, one of the most powerful defoliants used during the Vietnam War, and its relationship to environmentalism. During the war, picloram became a symbol of “ecocide” – the worst thing that could happen to the environment. But as environmentalists became concerned about invasive plants, they held their noses and embraced it as a technology that could wipe out unwanted plants and restore the “natural” environment. The change in thinking about this pesticide, I argue, revealed latent fault lines in the environmental movement over ecological versus human health and short-term versus long-term problems.

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Mapping, Data Visualization and Digital Humanities


In March 2018, I launched a website, Enviro-History that will host visualizations and writings about environmental history, geared toward the public, educators and students. Currently the site includes a timeline and animated map visualization of “invasive” shrimp introductions, as well as essays on art and music as it relates to environmental history.

“Renewing Inequality,” American Panorama

From 2015 to 2016, I held a fellowship from the Mellon Foundation to help the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab where I helped conceptualize and research a national map of urban renewal and its consequences. It has been published as “Renewing Inequality,” part of the American Panorama digital history atlas.

American Yawp
I authored environmental history sections for three chapters of the American Yawp, an online, open-source, and subsequently award-winning, U.S. history textbook.

People of the Founding Era
I directed the construction of a geographic database for People of the Founding Era, a digital humanities project run by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities about the social world in the United States in the decades surrounding the American Revolution.

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Environmental Data and Governance Initiative

Since May, 2017 I have been involved with the EDGI, a cross-disciplinary group of volunteers tracking and analyzing threats to federal environmental policies and programs, and the scientific research and data that underpin those policies and programs. I work with the Capacity & Governance Working Group. I have contributed to a report on environmental justice under the Trump administration – “Pursuing a Toxic Agenda” – and am the lead author on an article that compares the current administration’s assault on environmental health protections to the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

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Full Curriculum Vitae

(Download Full C.V.)


PhD University of Virginia, History, 2017

MA University of Montana, History, 2010

BA Vassar College, Departmental Honors, 2000


Environmental History; Twentieth-Century United States; History of Health and Medicine; History of Technology (Passed, Highest Honors)


The Age of Lead: Metropolitan Change, Environmental Health, and Inner City Underdevelopment in Baltimore.

Journal Articles

“History of US Presidential Assaults on Modern Environmental Health Protection,” American Journal of Public Health (forthcoming). [Lead author, with co-authorship by other members of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative.]

"From Ecocide to Eco-ally: Picloram, Herbicidal Warfare, and Invasive Species, 1963-2005," in Global Environment, vol. 7, no. 1, 2014.

"Bio-Invasions and Bio-Fixes: Mysid Shrimp Introductions in the Twentieth Century," Environment and History vol. 23, no.2, 2017.

Book Chapters

"The Rise and Fall of an Ecostar: Green Technology Innovation and Marketing as Regulatory Obstruction," in Hartmut Berghoff and Adam Rome, eds., Green Capitalism? Exploring the Crossroads of Environmental and Business History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

"The Riot Environment: Parks, Recreation and Sanitation in the Wake of Baltimore's 1968 Riot," in Nicole King and Kate Drabinski, eds., Baltimore Revisited: Rethinking and Remaking an American City (forthcoming from Rutgers University Press).


Ambrose Monell Fellowship in Technology and Democracy, Miller Center of Public Affairs (2016-2017)

Digital Humanities Research Fellowship, Scholar's Lab, University of Virginia (2016-2017)

Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond (2015-2016)

Raven Fellowship, University of Virginia (2013)

President's Fellowship, University of Virginia, Graduate School Arts and Sciences (2011-2016)

Grants and Awards

Double Hoo Research Grant, University of Virginia (2016-2107)

Mellon Graduate Seminar: Composing the Humanities in the Digital Age (2014-2015)

History Project Research Grant, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Harvard (2014)

National Endowment for the Humanities, Mapping Nature Across the Americas Summer Institute, Newberry Library, Chicago (2014)

Workshop on Digital Environmental History, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, Stanford (2014)

Robert Huskey Travel Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia (2013)

Arts, Humanities, Social Science Research Grant, Graduate School, University of Virginia (2013)

Corcoran History Department Summer Research Grant, University of Virginia (2012)

National Science Foundation Travel Grant (2012)

National Science Foundation Travel Grant (2011)

Mining History Association Research Grant (2011)

Matthew Hansen Foundation Research Grant, Wilderness Institute (2011)

Hartman Center Research and Travel Grant, Duke University (2011)

Susan Koch Scholarship, University of Montana (2009)

Departmental Honors for Thesis, Vassar College (2000)

Teaching Experience

Primary Instructor

The Urban Environment: History, Technology, Policy, January Term 2016 (University of Virginia)

Urban Environmental Policy, Spring 2015 (University of Virginia)

The Urban Environment: History, Technology, Policy, January Term 2015 (University of Virginia)

The Changing Context of Public Policy, Spring 2014 (University of Virginia)

U.S. History Since 1865, Summer 2013 (University of Virginia)

Teaching Assistant

Native American History; History of American Energy and Power; Colonial Latin America; U.S. History to 1865; U.S. History after 1865

Guest Lecturer

"Environmental Justice and African-American Women," for Women in the Civil Rights Movement, University of Virginia, January 2014

Digital Humanities Projects

Creator and Developer, Enviro-History

Project Developer, “Renewing Inequality,” American Panorama, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond (2015-2016)

Environmental history author for the American Yawp (2013-2014)

Project Manager, Geographic Database, People of the Founding Era, Documents Compass, Virginia Endowment for the Humanities (2012)

Public Writing

Back to Basics, or a Departure from Environmental Protections? History Lends Perspective,” Public Lab Community Science Forum, December 5, 2017

"The Federal Agency that Few Americans Have Heard of and Which We All Should Need to Know," Washington Post, September 28, 2017

"The Environmental Protection Agency Is Not the Nation’s Janitor," The Guardian, July 28, 2017

"Scott Pruitt Is Wrong About the Origins of the EPA," Washington Post, July 14, 2017

"Suburban Commuters, Urban Polluters," Edge Effects, March 14, 2017

"The Environment of Opportunity," First Year 2017: Where the Next President Begins, Volume 6, Miller Center of Public Affairs, November 30, 2016

"Lead Poisoning: Then and Now," We're History, March 29, 2016

"The 'Depression Disease': What the United States' First National Lead Poisoning Crisis Can Teach Us about the Flint Water Disaster," American Historical Association Today, March 14, 2016

"The Surprising Link Between Postwar Suburban Development and Today's Inner-city Lead Poisoning," The Conversation, February 25, 2016

"Urban Policy – Lessons from History," Common Place: The Anatomy and Art of Thriving Communities, November 14, 2014

"The Aliens Are Coming! Strange mussels, fish, plants, and diseases – and their clueless human helpers – could decimate Montana waters," (cover feature) Missoula Independent, April 21, 2011.

Book Reviews

Benjamin Hale, The Wild and the Wicked: On Nature and Human Nature in Environmental History, July 2018.

Review essay: Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children in H-EnviroHealth, February 2018.

Michael C. Mix, Leaded: The Poisoning of Idaho’s Silver Valley in Environmental History vol. 23, no. 1, January 2018.

Keith Wailoo How Cancer Crossed the Color Line in Journal of African-American History, vol. 99, no. 4, Fall 2014, 484-486.

Invited Talks

"The Age of Lead: Metropolitan Change, Environmental Health, and Urban Underdevelopment in Baltimore, 1900-2000," Environmental History Series, University of Kansas, 2016

"Digital Humanities Maps and Public Engagement," Miller Center of Public Affairs Fellows Conference, University of Virginia (2016)


"The Alchemy of Automobile Commuting: Lead Poisoning in the Golden Age of the Suburbs," Miller Center of Public Affairs, 2017

"Commuter-Polluter Suburbs: Automobile Pollution in the Inner City Before the Interstates," Urban History Conference, 2016

"Environmental Knowledge: Noise, Lead and Learning in the Urban Environment," American Society for Environmental History, 2016

"White Lead and White Flight: Suburbanization, Inner City Housing Deterioration, and Slumlord Capitalism in Baltimore, 1940-1965," Movements and Directions in Capitalism, University of Virginia (2016)

"The Age of Lead: Suburbanization, Environmental Health, and Urban Underdevelopment," History of Energy and the Environment, Center for History and Economics, Harvard University (2015)

"The Rise and Fall of an Ecostar: Technological Innovation and Marketing as Policy Obstruction," Green Capitalism? At the Crossroads of Environmental and Business History, Hagley Museum (2014)

"Childhood Lead Poisoning in Twentieth-Century Baltimore: Urban Renewal, Automobiles, and Climate," Poster, American Society for Environmental History (2014)

"Childhood Lead Poisoning in Baltimore in the Mid-Twentieth Century: Pica, Policy and Climate," Baltimore Ecosystem Study Conference (2013)

"Neuro-history: Some Theories and Methods for Getting inside the Grey Box," Science and Method in the Humanities, Rutgers University (2012)

"From Ecocide to Eco-ally: Picloram, Herbicidal Warfare and Invasive Species, 1963-2000," Workshop on Hazardous Chemicals: Agents of Risk and Change, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (2012)

"Bio-Fixes and Bio-Invasions: The Introduction of Mysid Shrimp into Flathead Lake, Montana, 1939 – 2000," American Society of Environmental History Conference (2012)

"From Ecocide to Eco-ally: Picloram, Invasive Species, and American Environmentalism," Society for the History of Technology Conference (2011)

"Goods in the Woods: Consumerism, Marketing, and Freedom in the Rise of a New Wilderness Ethic," Phi Alpha Theta (2009)

Panel Organizer

"Urban Environmental History: New Directions," Urban History Conference (2016)

"Mindscapes and Brainscapes: Environmental History and Psychology," American Society for Environmental History (2016)

Professional Experience

Researcher and Lecture Writer, Clay Endowment Project on Global History of Energy and Power, with Professor Edmund Russell, 2012

Historical Ecology Researcher, Earth Restoration Project, University of Montana, 2008-2009

Member and Contributor, Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, 2017-Present


Manuscript Reviewer: MIT Press (Urban and Industrial Environments Series)

Coordinator: Environmental History Lab, 2013-2014

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