Five Minutes with a Fellow offers a brief glimpse into what inspires researchers in the environmental humanities. The interviews feature current and former fellows from the Rachel Carson Center.
Ryan was a Carson fellow in the summer of 2017.
Ryan graduated with a BA in German history from Walla Walla College (Washington State, USA) in 1998, before sojourning in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kamchatka to learn Russian and witness the chaos of the Yeltsin years. He returned to the US and completed his PhD in global history at Columbia University in 2008. His research inspierd an interest in the Pacific and took him to the University of Auckland, where he taught Pacific and environmental history. Ryan began research on the Pacific and history of whaling, working with marine biologists and policymakers. He also began research for his current book project: a global environmental history of Russian and Soviet whaling. He now teaches at the University of Oregon.
How does your research contribute to discussions around solving environmental challenges?
My research tries to give historical depth to understandings of the ocean. A perspective from the humanities allows us to understand just what happened to the oceans; why humans made the choices that they made; how they interact or fail to interact with the oceans in certain ways. What the barriers are to sustainability, what the (international) challenges are.
So there are two things. First, to try to get a deeper sense of oceanic ecosystems, which is particularly difficult and requires interdisciplinary work. But my research also contributes to these discussions more in the realm of the humanities in order to understand emotional, legal, and societal relationships to the oceans. Continue reading