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I am currently Professor of History and John C. Elder Professor in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, where I teach history and environmental studies . My areas of interest include the American West, particularly the environmental history of extractive labor like mining and farming. I also study and teach U.S. conservation and environmental movements broadly defined. I’m working to expand my expertise and facility in digital and data methodologies for humanistic inquiry. I am currently working on a digital history of Farm Security Administration Rural Rehabilitation programs in the rural South and West in the late 1930s. The fifteen images rotating in the header of this website, with the exception of Dorothea Lange’s March 1936 “Destitute pea pickers,” otherwise known as “Migrant Mother,” portray members of client families who, working with FSA home and farm supervisors, grew and preserved garden and farm produce for their families as part of rural rehabilitation loan programs. They are part of my current work in progress, “After Migrant Mother.”

My dog, Stryder, came home in March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As you can see, he spent The COVID Year getting bigger, and bigger.

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Images in Headers

The images rotating through the headers on this website are from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information digital collection at the Library of Congress. All are part of my current project, an image-rich digital book on race, land, and conservation during the latter years of the New Deal, the late 1930s. To see the full, un-cropped images and citations, see the links below.

“Levi Usher and his family plowing their two-acre tract in the community garden at Hazlehurst Farms, Georgia,” Jack Delano, April 1941.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-043759-D, LC P&P, LINK

“Bobby Willis, son of W.H. Willis, FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower, getting some of their canned goods off the shelves his father built in their home near Yanceyville, North Carolina,” Marion Post Wolcott, May 1940.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-056228-D, LC P& P, LINK

“The canned goods closet, and chart (on door) of one of the project families. Terrebonne Project, Schriever, Louisiana,” Marion Post Wolcott, June 1940.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-054297-D, FSA/OWI, LC P & P, LINK

“Josh Calahan’s wife with some of her canned goods in the cellar of their new home. Southern Appalachian Project near Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky,” Marion Post Wolcott, November 1940.

LC LC-USF34-056421-D , LINK

“[Mrs. Edmond Reid], FSA (Farm Security Administration) client, with her canned goods. Oakland community, Greene County, Georgia.” Jack Delano, November 1941.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-046448-D, LC P & P, LINK


“R.E. Sneed, rehabilitation client and eight year old daughter on cotton cultivator. Near Batesville, Arkansas,” Carl Mydans, May-June 1936.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-006385-D, LC P&P, LINK

“Untitled,” no caption, Jack Delano, November 1941. [Julia Miller, FSA family, Penfield, Greene County, Georgia]

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-046385-D, LC P&P, LINK


“Rehabilitation client’s son. Kaufman County, Texas.” Arthur Rothstein, July-August 1936.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-005177-E, LC P&P, LINK

“Mrs. Alfred Peterson, wife of tenant purchase borrower, with preserved food, Mesa County, Colorado,” Arthur Rothstein, October 1939.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-028632-D, LINK

“Negro tenant farm woman. A widow. She runs the farm with the help of two children. FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower. Greene County, Georgia.” Jack Delano, June 1941.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-044697-D, LINK

“FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower. Saint Mary’s County, Maryland,” John Vachon, September 1940.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF33-016015-M3, LINK

“Rehabilitation client repays loan. Smithfield, North Carolina,” Arthur Rothstein, October 1936.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-005512-E, LINK

“Mrs. Calip White and daughter with fruit and vegetables canned for the winter. Near Scotland, Saint Mary’s County, Maryland,” John Vachon, September 1940.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-061356-D, LINK

“Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California,” Dorothea Lange, March 1936.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
 LC-USZ62-95653, LINK


“FSA (Farm Security Administration) borrower’s son getting some canned goods for dinner out of the pantry in his home. La Delta Project, Thomastown, Louisiana,” Marion Post Wolcott, June 1940.

Library of Congress reference number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-054130-D, LINK

“Wife of Negro tenant farmer, rehabilitation client. Jefferson County, Kansas,” John Vachon, October 1938.

Library of Congress references number and link to uncropped image:
LC-USF34-008747-D, LINK

Teaching

Middlebury Courses

HIST 222: U.S. Environmental History: Nature & Inequality

Click on image (seal of the city of Lowell, MA, 1836), for Syllabus

Click HERE for 2015 Omeka Timeline Exhibit on Environmental History of Middlebury College (by students in HIST 222).

ENVS 215: Contested Grounds: American Experiences

Click image for syllabus.
Clink LINK HERE for Catherine Buni’s 2016 article in LARB, “Toward a wider view of nature writing,” which captures some of the mission of our course.

HIST 216: History of the American West

Click image for syllabus (Theodore Roosevelt Campaign Poster, 1904)

First-Year Seminar 1378: American Environmentalisms

Click Image (Newsweek Cover, 26 January 1970) for syllabus.

ENVS 444: The New West: From Reagan to Burning Man

Click image (student-created wilderburb, “FrontierLand”) for syllabus.

ENVS 401: Community-Connected Practicum, Spring 2017
Theme: Energy and Equity in Vermont

Click image (student-created energy infographics) for syllabus).

Click here for project descriptions.

ENVS 1039, Winter 2018: Dances with Avatar

Click image (web mashup of Dances with Wolves (1990) and Avatar (2006)) for syllabus.

Click HERE for student work.


HIST/AMST 445: Vermont Life‘s Vermont: A Collaborative Web Project

Click image for syllabus. Image: Vermont Life cover, Winter 1950-51.

Click here for student projects, Fall 2018 (may require login).
Click here for student projects, Spring 2020 (may require login).

Published Work

Dead bluebill duck in an oil spill from Tanker Delian Apollon, Tampa Bay, Florida, January 1, 1970. Published in Life Magazine, March 1970. Courtesy George Silk/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. For the full context of this image see article “There Will Be Birds,” below.

I research and write about American environmental change, and the ways in which Americans (and others) have thought and told stories about that change–and about themselves. Over the years my work, both published scholarship and teaching, has focused more and more on images (mostly photographs) as documents of environmental history.

My first book, The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), starts with an image, the one on the cover of the book (see below).

Click on the images of covers and titles below for full text (articles) or to learn more about some of these publications.

From the introduction, “On the Chilkoot”: “…Alaska-Yukon miners sometimes saw themselves on a journey away from culture and into primitive nature. On one level, especially at trying moments on the Chilkoot Pass, those perceptions were accurate. They did journey into nature, through nature, and with natures. But rather than journey out of culture or away from it, they journeyed into and through their own industrial culture, and into and through the relationships with nature at the heart of that culture….[N]o matter how far they traveled, they remained with in a culture which rapidly transformed human relations with the environment. And no matter how thoroughly industrial culture transformed nature, human beings remained connected to their environment. The nature of gold was a nature from which they could never be fully separated” (p. 15).


Copyright© 2012 Kathryn Morse. Published by Oxford Univ Press for the Organization of American Historians. This article first appeared in The Journal of American History 99:1 (June 2012): 124-34. Click title image for full article. Image: Lake View Gusher, CA, ca. 1910, Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Copyright © 2017 Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Reviews in American History, Vol. 45 Issue 1, March 2017, pages 109-116. A review essay on recent work.


Roundtable review of Carolyn Finney, Black Faces, White Spaces and Carl Zimring, Clean and White, with review essays by Kathryn Morse, Mary E. Mendoza, Richard M. Mizelle, Jr., Traci Brynne Voyles, and introduction by Christopher F. Jones.


Copyright© 2007 American Society for Environmental History. This article first appeared in Environmental History 12:2 (April 2007): 346-49. A short meditation on Jaws as a key film in environmental history.


Copyright© American Society for Environmental History. This article first appeared in Environmental History 10:4 (October 2005): 728-30. A short essay on Jane Smiley’s story “Good Will” as a key text in environmental history.


Copyright© The Society for History Education. This article first appeared in The History Teacher 37:1 (November 2003), 67-72.


Copyright© The Author. This non peer-reviewed essay was published in 2007 by the Mount Independence Coalition, Orwell, VT. It is a good example of how an environmental historians approaches a topic not always associated with “environmental” ideas.