HELLO AND WELCOME. You have reached the website for Peter Alagona, associate professor of history, geography, and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I am an environmental historian, historian of science, and nature-culture geographer with additional interests and training in conservation biology and science and technology studies. Click here for a résumé.
ON THIS SITE you will find information about my background, research, writing, teaching, and the various programs and organizations in which I participate. You will also find some useful links. If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about opportunities to study environmental history at UC Santa Barbara, please feel free to send me a message.
THE KEY THEME throughout my research and teaching is the concept of habitat. This may at first seem like a simple idea—habitat is where a species lives—but it has a long history and contested place in environmental science, management, politics, and law, as well as popular ideas about and cultural representations of nature. My work explores what happens when humans share space and resources (their habitats) with other species: how we interact with non-human creatures, how we make sense of these interactions, why we fight so much about them, what we can learn from them, and how we might use these lessons to foster a more just and sustainable society.
I APPROACH THIS THEME through three avenues of research. The first of these is my work on wildlife. I have written several essays about human interactions with wildlife, and in 2013 I published After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California, which sought to explain why endangered species conservation has been so controversial in the United States since the late 1970s.
RECENTLY, I have focused on three other wildlife projects. I have published two essays on the environmental history of steelhead and rainbow trout. I am working on a book on the history of wildlife in American cities. And in the fall of 2016, I founded the California Grizzly Study Group at UCSB to conduct the first study of brown bears in this state since 1955.
THE CONCEPT OF HABITAT also informs my research on California's diverse landscapes and ecosystems. I have written about the state's oak woodlands, Mojave Desert, Central Valley, Coast Ranges, Bay-Delta, Coachella Valley, Santa Ynez River, and Channel Islands. I am now working on a project that uses the University of California's Natural Reserve System (NRS) as a laboratory for research and teaching in environmental history and the history of science. I also contribute to the UC Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts (ISEECI), which seeks to understand the ecological effects of climate change in California.
A THIRD AREA OF HABITAT related research involves my work on ideas about environmental change. Along these lines, I am currently collaborating with UCSB graduate student Tim Paulson and postdoctoral fellow Kevin Brown on a project exploring the history of ecological change—and ecological theory—on California rangelands.
IN ADDITION to my research and teaching, I am active in public service and other professional activities. I was the founding director of UCSB’s Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis in Environment & Society. I serve on the faculty editorial committee of the University of California Press, I am an associate editor of the MIT Press book series History for a Sustainable Future, and I have been a juror for the Weyerhaeuser Prize in forest and conservation history. I serve on several other boards and steering committees, I give frequent public lectures, and I do occasional interviews with newspapers, public radio stations, and other media outlets.
THROUGHOUT MY CAREER, I have been fortunate to work with wonderful mentors, colleagues, and students at institutions that value interdisciplinary and humanistic environmental scholarship. The first stage of this journey ended when I completed my undergraduate degree in history at Northwestern University in 1995. I later received a master's degree in geography from UC Santa Barbara, and master's and doctoral degrees in history from UCLA. Before joining the UCSB faculty in 2008, I was a Beagle Environmental Fellow in the Center for the Environment and Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor in the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford.
WHEN I'M NOT WORKING I spend my time outdoors with family and friends. In 2015 I took up running and I'm now training for my second marathon. My greatest passion, though, is mountaineering. Over the past two decades, I have climbed peaks in Mexico, Indonesia, Europe, Alaska, and throughout the American West. During graduate school, I lived for a summer in Washington's North Cascades, and in Santa Barbara I am fortunate to have the Santa Ynez Mountains in my backyard. I have a special fondness, though, for California’s High Sierra, where I’ve climbed dozens of peaks, camped by hundreds of alpine lakes, hiked thousands of miles of trails, and been bitten by what seems like millions of mosquitoes. I also love to surf, bike, paddle, raft rivers, or just go for walks with my family and dog on the beaches near my home.