Chatham University

Sustainability (MSUS) Faculty and Staff

Crystal Fortwangler Ph.D.

Crystal Fortwangler
Assistant Professor of Sustainability and 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 has a joint-Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and natural resources/environmental studies, and owns a film company focused on exploring sustainability in conversation with human and animal welfare. She emphasizes ethical and justice frameworks in sustainability and engages the social sciences and humanities as part of applied and action-oriented projects. Her research and films explore how we can simultaneously best pursue conservation & marine protection, social and economic justice, and animal welfare. Key to her work is also considering how sustainability is communicated to various audiences. Crystal has extensive research experience based in the US Virgin Islands, in particular the island of St. John, where she has conducted over a decade’s worth of ethnographic and archival-based fieldwork. Early work explored the complex and often masked relationships between the creation of protected areas, real estate, leisure, tourism, labor and state interests. This has informed her broader engagement with conservationists and protected area proponents, pressing them to be more inclusive in how they discuss and protect "the environment". She currently considers sustainability through her work on human-animal relationships and what that means for how we shape the landscapes around us, in particularly marine environments. The focus is on how humans think about and engage the ocean, other animals, 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 also focuses 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 and the lionfish. She is beginning to explore human-animal relations vis-a-vis sustainability at Chatham's new Eden Hall campus, specifically deer and ecosystem health.


  • 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