I am a geographer, trained in people-environment geography, which utilizes research frameworks from both human and physical geography. My training at the undergraduate level was in urban geography, but at the Ph.D. level gravitated more toward physical, especially soil geography and geomorphology. My minor was soil science (pedology). I describe myself as a cultural/political/historical ecologist working on issues of landscape transformation and changing livelihoods. I am most interested in how people have and continue to transform their landscapes as they continually adapt and adjust both themselves and their environment to changing socio-economic circumstances.
My interests in geography began at a young age. As the daughter of a Dutch foreign service diplomat with parents living in different corners of the world, I spent much of my youth looking out of airplane windows wondering about the patterns below. I was lucky enough to attend British and Canadian schools were geography was taken seriously. The walls in my girlhood room were covered with National Geographic maps.
I graduated from the United Nations International School in NYC, having completed extensive IB credit in anthropology and biology (ironically that school did not offer geography!). At the University of Michigan I was one of the last Geography majors in 1983. I proceeded immediately to Urban Planning, obtaining a M.U.P. in 1985 with a specialization in International Development. After graduating in 1985 I tried out the real world and worked a number of jobs, including being the Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor, an Associate at Community Systems Foundation, a Regional Planner in Connecticut, and a manager of a Williams-Sonoma store. After a cross-country bicycle trip in 1989, I recommitted to the academy and have been working as a scientist ever since.
I chose the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my Ph.D., and proceeded with coursework for a master's and then a Ph.D. in Geography with a minor in Soil Science. Initially mentored by Bill Denevan, my dissertation was completed in 1999 under the supervision of Karl S. Zimmerer and is entitled, Between the Floods: Soils and Agriculture on the Lower Amazon Floodplain, Brazil.
In January 2007, I became a naturalized U.S. citizen.