I am an environmental historian who studies the modern U.S., the modern South, and Florida. Historians study change over time; I am interested in how nature and humans, entwined together, created historical change.
My research has mostly examined the history of the Florida Everglades. My forthcoming book, From Swamp to Wetland, examines the creation of Everglades National Park. I’ve published several articles on this topic as well.
My next project examines the history of marine preservation in Florida. Protecting aquatic ecosystems has become a major concern only recently, but Florida has an impressive history of protecting these aquatic, estuarine, and coastal regions.
Both my Everglades work, and my work on marine preservation illuminate Florida’s changing economic, cultural, and political history. The state’s preservationist impulses were directly connected to Florida’s efforts to build itself into the premier tourist destination in America. The state understood that protecting Florida’s nature was essential to attracting tourists. The creation of the ENP in particular helped Florida redefine itself as the Sunshine State. No longer was the state a frontier, backwater state, tainted by the legacies of slavery and secession. The park was part of effort to stake a claim to the mainstream of American modernity. These histories also show how controlling nature was an essential part of the construction of Florida’s government. The environmental-regulatory state in Florida was a major element of the state government’s modernization and growth.