I am an environmental and borderlands historian and my research is organized into inquiries about infrastructure and border history with a geographical focus on the U.S.-Canada border along the Detroit River. I am currently in the process of publishing scholarship on the role of dredging as a political and territorializing process in the Detroit River in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I have long been interested in movement, migration, and mobility along and across political borders and explored this in my master’s thesis in urban design at Lawrence Technology University. I have recently become interested in questions of rivers as borders and broadly, borders themselves. I am interested in how borders manifest themselves on the ground and on water. Borders are more than lines on maps; they are realities that need to be understood in the unique historical-ecological- sociological- technological circumstances that make the borders in the first place.
My dissertation, tentatively entitled “Freshwater Frontier: Island making, dredging, and infrastructure in the Detroit River 1865-1930” explores the origins, motivations, and effects of dredging to offer a new history of the Detroit River. In so doing, it attempts to offer a new analytical lens by thinking about dredging as a historical, material, andecological process. Furthermore, given the binational nature of the shipping channel, this dissertation argues that dredging is as much a territorializing process as it is a technological and political process. This is not a story about the rise and fall of dredging for dredging continues as a maintenance activity, worth multimillion contracts, every year; rather, it is a story of nature being altered and manipulated for greater economic returns. Between 1865 and 1930, the Detroit River went from a transportation chokepoint to an efficient and managed waterway. In examining dredging as a political, technological, and territorializing process, this dissertation is a new environmental history of the Detroit River that pays special attention to infrastructure and its impact on humans and non-humans.