Elizabeth Prentice received the 2020 Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award as part of this year’s virtual Celebration of Excellence awards celebration in CAFNR. She defended her dissertation, “Narrating Disturbance: Risk, Power, and Mountain Pine Beetles” and completed her doctoral degree in rural sociology in summer 2020. Her advisor is Hua Qin, associate professor of rural sociology. Both Prentice and Qin were honored as part of Celebration of Excellence.
Her dissertation work explores the competing narratives of attribution surrounding a massive bark beetle outbreak in north central Colorado. This research fills an existing gap in the understanding of the human dimensions of forest insect disturbance by examining the power dynamics and economic nestedness of resource management decisions.
This dissertation project was supported by an NSF-funded project. Prentice also successfully secured research funding from other sources such as the Herbert F. & Vivian S. Lionberger Fellowship and the MU Graduate School Dissertation Travel Award. During her doctoral study she authored and coauthored several research publications, including a book chapter in “Human Dimensions of Forest and Tree Health: Global Perspectives” directly related to her dissertation project. She also presented her research at national professional conferences and incorporated findings into the undergraduate courses she instructed/co-instructed at MU.
“Prentice’s work integrates perspectives from multiple disciplines to make a novel contribution to the literature on the human dimensions of forest insect disturbance and to literature on the political ecology of risk and hazard vulnerability,” said Jere Gilles, assistant director for international partnerships, CAFNR International Programs, and retired associate professor of rural sociology. “She focuses on the political and economic context of the disturbance and the degree to which understandings of environmental change and experiences of environmental vulnerability hinge on positionality in ongoing regional economic change.”
“Elizabeth’s work makes important contributions to understanding the connections between ecological outcomes, social inequalities, and prevailing socio-political structures,” Qin said. “The research well reflects her interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary orientation as it seeks to understand environmental attitudes and behaviors embedded in socioeconomic and ecological community contexts.
“Elizabeth represents the highest scholarship caliber among all graduate students I have worked with at MU. She will surely become an outstanding teacher-scholar in interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability sciences.”