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Horowitz joins Nelson Institute faculty with expertise in environmental governance

August 28, 2015

This fall, Leah Horowitz is trading in her sun visor for a cheese hat as she joins the Nelson Institute as an assistant professor of environmental studies.

Horowitz comes to Madison from New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific where she has been exploring community responses to multinational mining projects and biodiversity conservation.

Horowitz studies grassroots environmental governance, examining the ways ordinary citizens engage with environmental issues that concern them. She has worked in locations ranging from New Zealand and Australia to Malaysia and Madagascar. 

“Over the years, I have found that social relationships and networks are a big part of grassroots environmental engagements,” says Horowitz. “My research has focused on these connections, along with ways emotions influence people’s responses to environmental issues. “

UW-Madison professor Leah Horowitz and friends
Horowitz and friends in Unia, New

She looks forward to continuing these pursuits at UW-Madison and will hold a partial appointment in the School of Human Ecology.

“I am very excited to have landed in Wisconsin, where there is a long tradition of environmental awareness and several pressing environmental issues facing us today,“ she says. “I am looking forward to being a part of this wonderful community, getting to know my colleagues and students, and participating in the opportunities that UW offers.”

Horowitz expects to focus on two major research topics in Wisconsin: community response to the pipeline, known as Line 61, that carries oil from Canadian tar sands through the state, and to frac sand mining in western Wisconsin.

“I am a big supporter of the Wisconsin Idea – making sure that our research helps to improve local communities’ lives,” says Horowitz.

She will also teach a course focused on attempts to mitigate climate change at personal, policy and international levels.

“My students and I will examine what has been tried and what the results have been of each effort,” she says.

Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins believes Horowitz’s background presents new opportunities for collaboration and exploration.

“She’ll be advancing our students’ grounded understandings of the messiness of reality in environmental conservation. At the same time, she will be building strong research and teaching linkages,” he says. “She brings enormous expertise in how conservation really works, on the ground, amongst real people, in far-flung contexts.”

Previously an associate professor of geography at Hawai'i Pacific University, Horowitz earned her doctorate from Australian National University. She has served as a visiting professor in the UW-Madison Department of Geography since fall 2013.