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Heather Douglas ( is an Associate Professor in MSU’s Department of Philosophy.  Her research focuses on the relationship between science and democracy, including the role of social and ethical values in science, the nature of scientists’ responsibility in and for science, and science-policy interfaces such as science advising, science funding, and science communication.  She is interested in how citizens can and should interact with science, including the bases for citizens’ trust in scientists, and had a particular interest in the use of science for environmental policy-making and in energy policy.  She is the author of many articles, edited collections, and her monograph Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).  She has also taught environmental ethics for many years, and as a result of this, has put together a textbook, Environmental Ethics from the Roots Up (Cognella Press 2016), which is geared towards non-philosophers interested in environmental issues. In 2016, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

KevinElliot-e1369702802826-224x300Kevin Elliott ( is Professor in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife at MSU with a secondary appointment in the Department of Philosophy. He is affiliated faculty in the Environmental Science & Policy Program. His research interests are at the interface between the philosophy of science and practical ethics, focusing especially on environmental issues and research ethics. Many of the case studies that he has examined involve contemporary research on environmental pollution, including endocrine disruption, nanotechnology, multiple chemical sensitivity, and hormesis. His latest book, A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science was released in 2017 by Oxford University Press. He is published in journals such as Ethics, Policy & Environment; Environmental Ethics; Science, Technology & Human Values; Accountability in Research; Science and Engineering Ethics; Philosophy of Science; Studies in History and Philosophy of Science; History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences; Cell; Human and Experimental Toxicology; and Environmental Science and Technology.

tt Ferkan( is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Teacher Education at MSU. He is affiliated faculty in the Environmental Science & Policy Program. His teaching and scholarship focus on political, ethical, and pedagogical problems relating to environmental ethics and education, civic and moral education, and well-being and virtue. Current projects include one funded by the Spencer Foundation linking environmental virtue ethics and participatory democracy to environmental and science education. Past projects theorize the sense of self-worth and the importance of fostering self-esteem relative to other aims of education. He has published in journals such as Environmental ValuesEthics, Policy & EnvironmentPacific Philosophical QuarterlyTheory & Research in Education, Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, and The Southern Journal of Philosophy.

michael1-e1345421123213Michael O’Rourke ( is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and AgBioResearch at MSU, and affiliated faculty in the Environmental Science & Policy Program. He is also the Director of the Center for Interdisciplinarity. His research interests include the nature of epistemic integration and communication in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and the nature of linguistic communication between intelligent agents. He co-taught the Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Production IGERT seminar at the University of Idaho in spring 2005 and is PI on the NSF-funded project, “Improving Communication in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration”, which extends research into philosophical approaches to facilitating interdisciplinary research. He has also published on the topic of communication, both within philosophy and within the field of robotic agent design. Since 1998, he has served as co-director of the Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference, an interdisciplinary conference on philosophical themes held annually on the campuses of UI and WSU, and since 2000, as co-editor of the Topics in Contemporary Philosophy series published by the MIT Press. He has published in journals such as Synthese, Bioscience and Journal of Philosophy.

Shakara Tyler is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy and also identifies as a returning-generation farmer, seedkeeper, and community organizer. Her primary research explores community-centered pedagogies and decolonial and participatory research methodologies at the intersections of food justice, food sovereignty, environmental justice and climate justice movement building primarily among Black communities. She serves as a board member of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and Detroit Peoples’ Food Co-op, a coordinating member of the Black Dirt Farm Collective (BDFC) within the Mid-Atlantic region. She has worked with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems as the Underserved Farmer Development Specialist where she provided technical assistance to underserved farming groups such as farmers of color, women farmers and beginning farmers as well as developed research agendas focused on better supporting these communities. She has also served on the advisory board as a research and educational consultant with the Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON) in Georgia. Her research has been funded through the Spencer Foundation and the National Academy of Education. Her articles have appeared in academic and activist texts such as “Land justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the U.S.” and “Emergent Possibilities for Global Sustainability: Intersections of Race, Class and Gender.”

Sean Valles ( is an Associate Professor, joint appointed in the Lyman Briggs College (75%) and Department of Philosophy (25%). His research specialty is in philosophy of population health. His work overlaps with environmental in three particular areas. First, he has begun publishing on the topic of the bioethics of climate change’s health impacts. Second, he is collaborating with Michael O’Rourke, Kyle Whyte and Zach Piso on an NSF ethics education grant, developing an ethics curriculum for interdisciplinary environmental science graduate students. Third, he is working on a history project about population control advocacy and its relationship to conservationism. Dr. Valles’ articles have appeared in journals such as Preventive MedicinePhilosophy & BiologyStudies in History & Philosophy of Biological & Biomedical Sciences, and Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 

gretel-e1344349401473Gretel Van Wieren ( is Associate Professor of Religious Studies where her courses focus on religion, ethics, and the environment. She is author of Listening at Lookout Creek: Nature in Spiritual Practice (Oregon State University Press, 2019), Food, Farming and Religion: Emerging Ethical Perspectives (Routledge, 2018) and Restored to Earth: Christianity, Environmental Ethics, and Ecological Restoration (Georgetown University Press, 2013). Van Wieren’s articles have appeared in a variety of journals including Environmental Ethics, Conservation Biology, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, and the Public Philosophy Journal. She is recipient of a 2016-18 Mellon Foundation/Humanities Without Walls grant on the New Ethics of Food, and a 2015 H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest writing residency. Van Wieren received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University.

Stephanie E. Vasko ( is a research associate and the program manager for the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative and a project manager for Food@MSU. Her work at MSU is funded by AgBioResearch and the College of Arts and Letters. During 2017, Dr. Vasko was a member of the inaugural cohort for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Community Engagement Fellowship Program. Her research interests include strategic planning for sustainability-related projects and archival approaches to exploring the intersections between chemistry, design, and the environment. Dr. Vasko writes for a variety of different audiences, her articles have appeared in Slate, Chemical and Engineering News, Physics Today, Nano Letters, and Cogent Arts & Humanities.