My research and teaching focus principally on nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and North American history, with special reference to environment, science, and medicine. After my undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario (BA Hons), I embarked on postgraduate studies at the University of Toronto (MA), where I pursued work on Canadian and British intellectual history. In many ways, research on nineteenth-century Canadian natural history at Toronto laid the foundations for my long-standing interest in the history of natural history. I have examined the ways in which social roles and cultural assumptions of naturalists and scientists have shaped the formation of their knowledge of the natural world.
After completing my doctorate at Oxford, I held a Canadian SSHRC-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford before taking up a Wellcome Lectureship in the History of Medicine and the Life Sciences at the University of Kent, Canterbury. I subsequently moved to the University of St Andrews to become director of the Institute for Environmental History, where I oversee the interdisciplinary postgraduate programme in Environmental History, and I am a lecturer in the School of History.
My research and publications have focused on environmental history, the history of natural history, comparative psychology, gender and science, and the history of medicine. From 2001-5, I was the (Associate) Director of the AHRC Research Centre for Environmental History (with Stirling University). I directed a major research initiative in environmental history, focusing upon the history of waste in Britain. This research was organized around three on-going projects: ‘The Language of Waste’; ‘Recycling and Trash Culture’; and ‘The Management of Household Waste in Britain’ (You can hear me speak about the history of waste on a television programme entitled, Trashopolis’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJZNWfNWRIw). I continue to work on the history of waste, in addition to a broader research project on the history of environmentalism.