Kevin Burke


I am currently writing my dissertation, which is titled Forests for the Futures: Tree Improvement and the Construction of Sustainability.  This project maps the biogeographical distribution of economically and symbolically important tree species in the southeastern United States through a cultural and historical analysis of an expert community of forest geneticists.  Internalized in this ecology are historical land uses, species introductions, colonial and industrial agricultural practices, and national and international housing and energy policies.  As an industrialized landscape, it has also been remade through economic and scientific technologies, which model and remake forest landscapes through a discourse of sustainable development.  My work analyzes the way in which the notion of sustainability, which is always off in the future, comes to affect forest composition in the present.  It also investigates the ways that forest dynamics have become increasingly tied to futures markets and the way that forest genetics research both makes and responds to these markets.

Over the past year, I have also worked with the US Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station.  This research has focused on environmental education programs in Philadelphia.  I am currently working on a proposal for a long-term study of greening initiatives in the post-industrial cities of Philadelphia, Camden, Chester, and Wilmington.  This research will investigate the shift from "gray" (i.e. concrete) to "green" storm water infrastructure as a process of both environmental and social change.  In particular, I am interested in studying the forms that these green infrastructure projects take (such as parks, living shore lines, street trees, etc) and the social outreach programs that accompany these projects in order to produce a particular type of citizen to inhabit these spaces.  This project will also investigate the changing understanding of the relationship between cities and "nature" as this relationship becomes embodied in the infrastructure designed to help these cities adapt to climate change.


B.A. Temple University, 2007. Major: Anthropology (Human Biology Concentration)

Graduation Year



Dissertation Title

Future Forests: A Biogeography of an Industry-University Forest Science in the American South

Graduate Status