Science Workshop: Why Fattest Phosphines Flourish, While Famished Phenyls Fail

Do you like fit phosphines? 

Just add some phenyl rings.

And for fitter phosphines

Fatten those phenyls with isopropyl things.

Because the fittest phosphines

Are the fattest phosphines - 

The gist of my truthful tale,

“Why fattest phosphines flourish,

While famished phenyls fail.”



This talk will describe my research on the electrochemistry of severely congested phosphines. If you prefer an Aseussian version of the abstract, see the article link at The Journal of the American Chemical Societywhich published the work earlier this year.


As always, delicious and thematically appropriate snacks will be served.

Alum news: Conservation education at Disney World

Emily Disney 2

Emily Mikucki on the job as a conservation educator at Disney World

Since graduating last spring, Emily Mikucki has been working as a conservation educator at the ‘Animal Kingdom’ park at Disney World.  She reports that she gets to “interact with guests through the Wilderness Explorers Program [to] help them learn about wildlife, animal behaviors and conservation.”  Emily’s work at Bennington focused, from the beginning, on the ecology and conservation of her favorite group of organisms — insects and, more specifically, butterflies and moths (the Order Lepidoptera).  Not surprisingly, she reports that her favorite part of the work at Disney World “is informing guests (primarily kids and families) about the different insects we have, and their morphologies and behaviors, and helping to build young biologists and entomologists.”  She also studied Spanish at Bennington, and spent several summers and FWTs doing conservation work in natural areas and conservation programs in Latin America.  This has also helped her in her job at Disney World, where she is part of the language program (“it’s says español on my name tag”).

Upcoming Science Workshop – Dr. David Bond

Please join us for our next Science Workshop with Dr. David Bond, visiting faculty member in Anthropology for the 2013-14 academic year. David is currently teaching two courses at Bennington, Nature in the Americas and The Anthropology of Science and & Technology. As usual, the talk will be in Dickinson 225 and thematic snacks will be provided.

The Environment as Disastrous History of the Present

deepwater rigThe environment is remarkably new. Over the course of the past century, the ‘environment’ shifted from erudite shorthand for ‘context’ to a proper noun worthy of its own governing agency in nearly every nation on earth (whether that domain is called ‘environment,’ ‘medio ambiente,’ mazingira,’ ‘lingkungan,’ or ‘huanjing’). The environment has arrived as an official means of knowing and governing the quality of life. But where, exactly, did this defendable environment come from? Through ongoing fieldwork at the intersection of pollution problems and environmental regulations across the Americas, my research suggests that toxic disasters (quite a few of the hydrocarbon variety) play a key role in the formation and reformation of the defendable environment. This paper recaps a few of these calamitous events and describes how the official response to them put in place new understandings of the ordinary conditions of life. Whether in coal smog or lead gasoline or acid rain or hydro-chlorinated pesticides or shoddy drilling practice or even global climate change, oil spills of one sort or another have been at the forefront of making the conditions of life visible, factual, and governable. This paper presents such disasters as an unfolding history of the present that keeps remaking nearly everything the state knows about the conditions of life. Disasters, then, are not aberrant events in industrial modernity but part and parcel of how the environment becomes knowable and governable in the present.


Alum news: Adam Scheinkman ’02 joins USDA Foreign Agricultural Service


Adam Scheinkman (third from left, standing), near the summit of Mt. Washington on an ecology class field trip in the fall of 1998.

Adam Scheinkman (’02) visited Bennington this summer and reported that he has just taken a full-time position at the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA.  He’ll be based in Washington DC as an “International Agriculture Program Specialist” working with  the “Norman E Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program.”  The Program brings agricultural scientists and experts from developing and middle-income countries to the U.S. for fellowships at various research institutions; Adam will be working with Fellows from both Latin America and Asia. Adam’s work at Bennington focused on ecology and evolutionary biology.

After graduation from Bennington, Adam joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Ecuador where he applied his ecological background to sustainable agricultural development.  Following his Peace Corps stint, Adam chose to do graduate work in agricultural ecology and policy and took a Master’s at Cornell University.

Over the last decade and more we’ve seen increasing student interest in sustainable agriculture and food systems.  Adam shows that such interests can lead to very interesting places.


Biodiversity Conservation in Coffee Agroecosystems

Dr. Katie Goodall will be presenting her doctoral research at Science Workshop this Friday, Oct 4, at 1pm in Dickinson 225.   katie

Katie is currently a post-doctoral Botany Fellow at Wellesley College. Her research focuses how shade tree and avian biodiversity is shaped by farmer decision making in smallholder coffee farms in northern Nicaragua. Katie’s work follows a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, in which farmers and coffee cooperative administrators helped to develop research questions, were an active part of the systems data collection process, and receive final results of the study. Incorporating empirical social science and natural science data into one study, Katie hopes that her work can be a model for analytically encapsulating the inherent transdisciplinarity of agroecosystems. She completed her doctoral with University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group.