Chatham University

High School Food, Farm & Field Faculty and Staff

Crystal Fortwangler Ph.D.

Crystal Fortwangler
Assistant Professor, Sustainability and Environmental Anthropology
Hometown : Pittsburgh, PA
Joined Chatham : 2011


Crystal is Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Environmental Anthropology at the Falk School of Sustainability. Most recently she was at Lafayette College where she held a Mellon Post-Doctoral Scholarship to help guide an emerging Environmental Studies program. Previously, she held a Visiting Assistant Professor position in Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. She brings a social and environmental justice framework to conversations about sustainability and provides a foundation for thinking about the environment in a way that emphasizes the social sciences and humanities. A driving aspect of her research is to consider what we ought to do about conflicts between human communities over natural resources, asking how we can best pursue both conservation and social and economic justice in relation to protected areas. Crystal has extensive research experience based in the US Virgin Islands, in particular the island of St. John, where she has conducted a decade’s worth of ethnographic and archival-based fieldwork in pursuit of her dissertation. That work explored the complex and often masked relationships between the creation of protected areas, transfers of real estate, leisure, tourism, labor and state interests. This work informs her broader engagement with conservationists and protected area proponents, pressing them to be more inclusive in how they discuss and protect "the environment". Of additional interest to her studies are the ways in which social constructs such as race and class intersect with conservation and environmentalism. She currently considers sustainability through her work on human-animal relationships and what that means for how we shape the landscapes around us. The focus is on how humans think about and engage other animals (and how animals “think” about and engage us, or at least adapt to our presence), and how this helps or hinders efforts to create a more sustainable world (and even how these engagements can re-shape our understanding of sustainability). She is also starting to focus on how human and non-human relationships vary in changing ecosystem conditions. This has been primarily in the island Caribbean and in the context of the green iguana but she plans to turn towards urban-based scholarship here at Chatham.


  • Ph.D., Anthropology and Natural Resourcse & Environment, University of Michigan, 2007
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2000
  • M.A., International Relations, University of Chicago, 1994
  • B.A., Political Science, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, 1993