Through interdisciplinary research and scholarship, students in the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies Master's program investigate issues in the environmental arts and humanities from a range of critical perspective. In collaboration with faculty in NCSS and throughout RISD, they develop individualized research programs that prepare them to make important interventions in the fields of art, architecture, design, communication, environmental policy and more.
Margaret Broughton is an anthropologist and ethnographic photographer, who earned her BA in Anthropology from Eastern Kentucky University with a focus in ethnoprimatology and medical anthropology. Since completing her degree, she moved to Madagascar for four years teaching English, visual art, and lemur conservation to primary and secondary schools, while also working as a volunteer for non-governmental organizations in biodiversity and reforestation projects. Currently, her research interests have become centralized in the human and non-human interface with the environment, especially how it manifests itself in health (traditional medicine and food insecurity) and human cultural practices: sacred forests, ethnobiology, agroecology, anthropogenic disturbances and habitat fragmentation. Broughton is a huge advocate against primates as pets and wishes to restructure how government and international organizations ensure effective local community engagement outcomes.
Jess Bugg is a vegan activist and artist from Austin, TX. She earned a BA in Visual Communication from SCAD while concentrating on photography and writing. Her last photo series focused on the lifespan of plastics and the value placed on disposable items. Bugg recently interned for Richard Linklater at Detour Film Production where she provided script coverage and was a PA on his most recent short film. She also volunteers as a foster for her local animal shelter. Her research interests include wildlife conservation, rewilding, animal rights and sustainable design. Bugg has a passion for rock climbing, swimming, camping and cooking plant-based meals for friends and family. She derives much of her inspiration from literature, moral philosophy and spending time in nature.
Michelle Dixon was drawn to the NCSS MA program by her own ever-evolving engagement with fashion. Professionally, she’s interested in counteracting the vast harmful effects the fashion industry has on ecosystems by investigating how to grow natural fibers by extracting water from plants. Rather than deplete other sources, she hopes to use the water that is currently transpired from plants via innovative retrieval methods that may prove to simultaneously assist our agriculture.
In her personal life, Dixon is a lover of books, hot cocoa and Jesus, and enjoys making nachos and hosting movie nights.
Dillon Foster is an ecologist and social theorist with an academic interest in political ecology, geography, and green urbanism. Foster earned a BA in Philosophy and BS in Environmental Studies from Western Michigan University, where his research focused on analyzing the uneven transformation of Michigan’s socio-environmental landscape. Through the NCSS program Foster hopes to explore the ways in which nature/space and social power relations such as class, race, and gender are interconnected and manifested materially. Foster asks how critical design can inform our visions of a post-carbon future, particularly in produced environments, to help create radically new social relations and spaces of resistance.
Talia Garrido earned a BA in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she pursued visual development, environmental science, and narrative nonfiction writing. Garrido is a World Wildlife Fund Panda Ambassador where she hosts educational events on wildlife conservation at the local level. She was also invited to join WWF to meet with members of Congress to lobby for international conservation funding. Garrido has also had the opportunity to intern at the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research; here she was involved in marine mammal stock assessment research and coral reef clean ups. Her goals are to combine her skills in illustration, animation, and interest in environmental conservation to inform her research on the future of conservation.
Sierra Gideon is a writer from Hamilton, Montana. She earned a BA in English with an emphasis in Literature from the University of Montana, where she developed an interest in nonfiction writing, postmodern studies, urbanization, and demographic change. While living abroad in France and working during the pandemic, she has further examined her notions of consumerism, globalization, and human movement in reaction to crisis. Gideon has most recently worked as a server and as a teacher for children of low-income families. She is an avid reader, journaler, amateur home cook, and flaneur in her free time. Gideon hopes to study cities as integral components of ecosystems and eventually apply her academic interests in the form of community planning, sustainable urban design, and written nonfiction.
Casey Merkle is an ecologist, educator, and artist with roots in Chicago, Illinois. Merkle graduated with a BA in Biology from Lawrence University. She served two years with TerraCorps, an AmeriCorps program, as a youth educator, community engagement coordinator, and land steward. Merkle draws her inspiration from storytelling in nature. She has a desire to learn from one another and to discover a deeper meaning behind the stories we share that demonstrate our connections with nature. Understanding how the world will need healing through the aftermath of this global pandemic has become a critical question that she will address with mindful listening and intentionality. She is hoping to explore how she can use her skills in writing, research, and illustration to begin this healing process.
Carmen Moreno is a visual artist, poet, performer, and ecological designer. They work as an independent artist and are interested in the intersections of science, technologies, art, ecological theory, and Latinx Futurism. Carmen seeks to understand new dynamics in the way humans relate to each other as a large living organism. Carmen received their Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2010 from the Kansas City Art Institute in Interdisciplinary Art and Creative Writing with a certification in Community Arts and Service Learning. They work as an artist and educator, teaching low-income communities, providing art education to refugees and immigrant populations. Carmen produces free interactive performances and new media immersive spaces that inspire new worlds and dreamscapes that encourage radical change.
Victor Rivera-Diaz is an environmental steward, visual artist, and writer who hails from the breadbasket region of Central California. He earned his BA in Environmental Studies with a minor in Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz. After graduating, he moved to Mexico City where he collaborated with public policy and data specialist teams to advocate for sustainable fishery systems following the 2018 national election season. His research interests include green urbanisms, design and indigeneity, and representations of nature. In his work, he hopes to probe and portray the aesthetico-spatial dimensions of urban life and the environment in Latin America through grassroots representational methods.
Rini Singhi is a Creative Consultant for publications and brands that focus on food. A marketing major, she earned a degree in Business Administration from NMIMS, Bombay, India. She started her professional journey with India's most prominent food delivery aggregator, which pushed her to understand how and what people eat. Then, with a desire to understand food cultures on a deeper level and how it intersects with shaping consumption and food brand ecosystem, she worked with Goya Journal, a food publication in India that sheds light on the diversity of food habits in an Indian context. Her goal is to understand how food, sustainability, and cultures are intertwined. Currently, her research is around how food brands shape eating habits. She loves to cook food, writing on her blog, and aspires to learn illustration.