Visiting Assistant Professor of Forestry
Prior to joining the faculty at Hampshire, Robin was engaged in field research and policy analysis contributing to the forest sector reform in Peru. Before that she served as chief academic officer at The School for Field Studies, an environmental study abroad program.
Her research focuses on the forest management and timber production systems of smallholder farmers. Her current geographic focus is Amazonia and Bhutan. Her research is deeply rooted in field work and is based on long-term engagement with farmers and other actors in the forestry sector. In this interdisciplinary research she and her colleagues use mixed methods, including interviews, participatory workshops, and forest mensuration techniques.
Her teaching interests include forest ecology and management, the intersection of science and policy, ecological and policy dynamics at the farm-forestry interface, and field research methods.
Students will construct a foundation of knowledge in plant structure and function (morphology and physiology). We will look briefly at plant evolution and then apply all of this to understand plant taxonomy: the identification, naming and classification of plants. In labs, we will focus on plant morphology and identification. All students will conduct a research project on some aspect of plants, and students at the 300-level will each conduct an independent study on a frontier in plant biology and lead a tutorial on the subject.
In this course, we will look at forest management systems around the world, from commercial forestry in government reserves in Bhutan to fallow forestry by smallholder farmers in the Amazon, any many others in between. We will look at these as socio-ecological systems, considering the ecology in the systems and the socio-economic factors and drivers of policy and management decisions. In the labs, we will take an in-depth look at forest management in the Northeast US and conduct fieldwork to contribute to the Hampshire College Forest Stewardship Plan.
How does the structure and composition of forests shift over time and across events, and how does this affect forest function? In this largely field-based course, we will construct an understanding of the core concepts of forest ecology, consider a diversity of forest management goals, and conduct research for management applications. In the field, students will practice an array of methods to address research questions in local forested landscapes. Plant identification will be a component of this course. Student learning will be assessed based on demonstration of the application of ecological knowledge to management challenges through engagement in the classroom and field activities, and completion of a forest research project.
Amazonia: a vast, complex, and conflicted region of South America. What roles do the Amazon forests and rivers play in local, regional and global ecology? Who governs this vast region that touches nine nations? What is at stake in its destruction? Who lives there, and why do they stay? We will explore the region from multiple perspectives, looking at science, policy, culture and conservation. Developing an understanding of tropical rainforest ecology, basin hydrology, and forest function (and multiple ways of understanding these) will be coupled with considerations of the role of culture, policy and conservation in shaping this region today. Our inquiry will be largely based in readings, film and discussion. Considerable writing, both analytical and reflective, will be expected.
What is happening with forests around the world? Some are coming back, others are moving up slope, and still others are disappearing. In this course we will look at an international set of case studies on forest transitions (either deforestation or restoration) and degradation. Through a political ecology lens, we will evaluate global imperatives, national policies, and local actions to "save the forest," while we unpack the local economic, social and political structural drivers of forest transition. Issues related to environmental justice will underlie much of our discussion through asking about the social consequences of forest transition as well as the economic outcomes. Literature research and complex problem analysis will inform the class discussion, and student work will culminate in a case study paper.
Plants productivity underlies most of life on Earth. In this three-part course, we will explore the role of plants in addressing some challenging problems, such as climate change, hunger, toxic environment, and social disintegration. First we will survey the use of plants in sustainable solutions. Then we will discover the structure and function of plants, the basis for growth, and the diversity of the plant kingdom. Finally students will design a botanical solution, one that is socially just, economically feasible, and ecologically sound. In this course students should demonstrate an understanding of the form and function of plants and an ability to apply that to developing sustainable botanical solutions to environmental and social problems. Weekly labs, both outdoors and in, will involve microscopy, experimental work in the greenhouse, and local field plant identification.
In this course students will become intimately and extensively knowledgeable about Amazonia, a region that hosts the world's largest contiguous tropical rainforest remaining on Earth -- and four other major vegetation types. We will explore what we think we know about the Amazon region, discover what others know, and consider what no one knows, looking for kinds of information that policy-makers and farmers have to work with in making policy and land use decisions. We will co-create a collective knowledge map of environmental, social, political, cultural, and economic dimensions of this vast multi-country region. Then, sub-groups will conduct an inquiry into the science behind each dimension to identify myths in our conceptualization, gaps in our understanding, and linkages among dimensions. Learning will be largely student-driven and inquiry-based with co-creation of knowledge and analysis.
This is a field course about forests. Shaped by climate, elevation, and continuous disturbance, the forests of New England are diverse, ever-changing, and beautiful. In this class we take field trips to twelve forests, reading the literature on each forest type, learning to identify trees and other denizens, and evaluating forest function, uses, and management strategies from the perspective of multiple-use forestry. We will learn to read the landscape for clues about history and stand dynamics, and also take steps in the scientific method, from observation to research design.