Professor Kirk’s research and teaching focus on the intersections of cultural and environmental history in the modern U.S. with a special interest in the American West, the counterculture and public history. In public history Kirk specializes in collaborative federal and regional research partnerships with his students linking historic preservation and environmental history. This work resulted in 22 National Register Nominations, National Landmark designations, Cultural Resource Studies, Multiple Property Documents for Yosemite National Park, Historic Resources Studies and Administrative Histories across the West. His research methods in public/environmental history are explained in, “When Nature Becomes Culture: The National Register and Yosemite’s Camp 4” with Charles Palmer, Western Historical Quarterly 37:4 (Winter 2006):496-506.
Kirk was Co-Pi on the award-winning Nevada Test Site Oral history Project funded by the U.S. DOE and U.S. ED. His research, exploring the environmental/public histories of atomic landscapes and the lived history of nuclear testing, was published in, “Rereading the Nature of Atomic Doom Towns,” Environmental History 17:3 (July, 2012) and more recently as a graphic history, Doom Towns: The People and Landscapes of Atomic Testing (Oxford University Press, 2017). From 2012-2014 Kirk was the lead researcher on a U.S. State Department Funded exchange of students and researchers working on the U.S. and former U.S.S.R. nuclear test sites and then served as a Scholar on the Department of Energy and Department of the Interior Manhattan Project Roundtable. His notable publications exploring the environmental history of countercultures include, Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism (Kansas, 2007) and more recently, “Alloyed: Countercultural Bricoleurs and the Design Science Revival,” in, David Kaiser and W. Patrick McCray, eds., Groovy Science: The Countercultural Embrace of Science and Technology over the Long 1970s (University of Chicago Press, 2016). Kirk is co-editor of the Modern American West Series for the University of Arizona press and serves on several national academic organization boards in his fields.
Professor Kirk’s work in public and environmental history was reviewed or featured in; The New York Times, Nature, the PBS NewsHour, The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Grey Room, Preservation Magazine, Docomomo-US, Preservation Forum, The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel, Orion Magazine, PBS American Experience, World Changing, Wired, Boing-Boing, Design Issues, The Chicago Tribune, The Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, The Atlantic, Newsweek, London Review of Books, Washington Post, Ready Made, Plenty, Bloomsbury Review (Editors’ Favorite Books of 2008), History Network News, Reason, Enlightenment Next, Edutopia, Voice of America, National Public Radio, California Historical Society and Nevada Humanities exhibits.