My intellectual pursuits have roots in my childhood experiences in the varied rural landscapes of the West. I recall backpacking in the High Uintas in my home state of Utah, camping in a grove of Redwoods in northern California, and a memorable road trip with my dad to Montana’s Flathead Lake and on to the Idaho panhandle and Canada. Some of my fondest memories involve backcountry drives on rough, desert roads in Utah’s red-rock country that I could not as a child even begin to place on a map. Travel in my young eye always contained an element of history and landscape, a marriage only reinforced in my adult mind. I’ve since experienced more of the West, having also lived in Arizona, Colorado, and now Missoula, Montana.
For me, history is more than an intellectual exercise: it is a way of understanding where we have come from and how we have arrived. If you don’t know where you are, says Wendell Berry, you don’t know who you are. I believe history is fundamentally about place. More than a historical backdrop, place is a central actor in the histories we tell. Place is landscape, the combination of the natural world and the human perceptions and experiences on it. I choose to write about places that are familiar to me–the landscapes and natural environments of the West–and to scout out their broader stories and meanings.
I earned my doctorate at Arizona State University in 2011. A reflection of my interests since childhood, my dissertation–and current book project–explores the intermix of history, culture, and nature in contemporary conflicts in Utah’s canyon country. Paul Hirt was my mentor; Stephen Pyne and Donald Fixico rounded out my committee. I earned bachelor’s (2003) and master’s (2005) degrees from Brigham Young University, where I benefited from the close association and mentoring of Thomas Alexander, Brian Cannon, and Ignacio Garcia.