Carissa F. Aoki

Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies

Hedge Hall, Room 104


B.A. Women’s Studies, Yale University; M.S. Forest Sciences, Colorado State University; Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems, and Society, Dartmouth College

I am an applied ecologist working at the intersection of landscapes, disturbance and risk, particularly in forest ecosystems. My graduate work dealt with wildfire and insect outbreaks, their impacts on forests, defense mechanisms of host tree species, and the effects of landscape-scale variation on disturbance susceptibility. I have also recently joined with colleagues in the social sciences to help think about how tree canopy cover in urban environments may relate to historical and socio-economic drivers such as redlining.

My interests in interdisciplinary research and teaching are grounded in my own academic travels from humanist to scientist. I am particularly interested in the languages and knowledges of the disciplines, and the ways in which these can or cannot speak to one another. I am further interested in realms of work outside academia, and the ways in which practitioner languages and knowledges speak to those within the more traditional academic disciplines.

This latter interest has led me to projects that are particularly focused on translating research into usable tools for resource managers and the general public. My research colleagues and I are currently working with the DALI Lab at Dartmouth College to develop an online web app that will enable forest managers across the southeastern U.S. to predict southern pine beetle outbreaks in their area using annual insect trapping data. I developed a predictive model that the DALI programmers and designers are integrating into a website and backend database that our management colleagues will use to help make resource allocation decisions every spring. The work of translating between research scientists, state and federal forest managers, and computer programmers/designers has been a fascinating journey, and continues to present interesting and unexpected challenges.

As an instructor, I am particularly interested in citizen numeracy, and in enabling all students, regardless of major or concentration, to visualize and interpret the vast quantities of data available to us in today’s media environment. I hope that students can learn to be empowered by data, while also learning to approach it with a critical eye.