Robert Wilson

Associate Professor, Geography and the Environment

Robert Wilson

Contact Information

533 Eggers Hall
(315) 443-9433


Ph.D., University of British Columbia, 2003


Environmental history, historical geography, animals and society, climate-change history and politics, environmentalism


GEO 103 Environment and Society

GEO 300 Geographies of Sustainability

GEO 354/HST 384 American Environmental History and Geography

GEO 358 Animals and Society

GEO 400 Urban Political Ecology and Environmental History

GEO 605 Writing Geography

GEO 754 Seminar in Environmental History



Wilson, Robert M. Seeking Refuge: Birds and Landscapes of the Pacific Flyway. Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series, William Cronon, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010.

Articles and Chapters

Wilson, Robert M. “From Noble Stag to Suburban Vermin: The Fall and Rise of White-Tailed Deer in the Northeastern United States.” In American Environment Revisited, edited by Geoffrey Buckley and Yolanda Youngs. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, forthcoming. 

Wilson, Robert M. “Faces of the Climate Movement.” Environmental History 22, no. 1 (2017): 128–39.

Wilson, Robert M. “Wildlife” and “Wildlife Management.” In Humans and Animals: A Geography of Coexistence, edited by Julie Urbanik and Connie L. Johnston, 351–53, 355-57. Laham, MD: ABC-Clio, 2017.

Wilson, Robert M. “Bookshelf: The Troubled History of Environmentalism.” Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center, September 22, 2016. 

Wilson, Robert M. “Making Tracks: Scholar Activist?Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center, August, 25, 2016 

Wilson, Robert M. “Will the End of the World Be on the Final Exam? Emotions, Climate Change, and Teaching an Introductory Environmental Studies Course.” In Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, edited by Stephanie LeMenager Stephen Siperstein, Shane Hall, 53–58. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Wilson, Robert M. “Environmental History,”Oxford Bibliographies in “Geography,” Ed. Barney Warf. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Wilson, Robert M. “Mobile Bodies: Animal Migration in North American History.”Geoforum 65 (2015): 465–72.

Wilson, Robert M. “Animals and the American Landscape.” In North American Odyssey: Historical Geographies for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Craig E. Colten and Geoffrey L. Buckley, 195–206. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Wilson, Robert M. “Historical Geography.” Oxford Bibliographies in “Geography,” Ed. Barney Warf. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Wynn, Graeme, Craig Colten, Robert M. Wilson, Martin V. Melosi, Mark Fiege, and Diana K. Davis. “Reflections on the American Environment.” Journal of Historical Geography 43 (January 2014): 152–68.

Wilson, Robert M. “Commentary 2: The state of the humanities in geography – a reflection,” Progress in Human Geography 37, no. 2 (2013): 310-313.

Wilson, Robert M. “Environmental Histories.” The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography, edited by Nula Johnson, Richard Schein, and Jamie Winders, 355–370. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 

Wilson, Robert. “The Necessity of Activism,”  Solutions Journal 3, no. 4 (2012): 75-79. 

Wilson, Robert M. "Landscapes of Promise and Betrayal: Reclamation, Homesteading, and Japanese American Incarceration,"  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101 no. 2 (2011): 424-444.

Wilson, Robert M. “The Ugly Duckling,”  Environmental History 16, no. 2 (2011): 439-445

"Birds on the Home Front: Wildlife Conservation in the Western United States during World War II." In War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age, edited by Charles E. Closmann, 132-49. College Station: Texas A&M Press 2009.

Wilson, Robert M. "Directing the Flow: Migratory Waterfowl, Scale, and Mobility in Western North America." Environmental History 7, no. 2 (2002): 247-266.

Book Review Essays and Book Reviews

Wilson, Robert M. “Maps with a Message.” Reviews in American History 43 (2015): 484–89.

Wilson, Robert M. Review of A Storied Wilderness: Rewilding the Apostle Islands in Environmental History 18, no. 1 (2013): 232-34.

Review of Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife in H-Environment Roundtable Reviews 3,1 (2013): 12-14. 

Wilson, Robert M. "Nature's Prophet." Review of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, H-HistGeog, (2009).  

Wilson, Robert. "Retrospective Review: Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth," Environmental History 10, no. 3 (2005).

“Supersize History,” Journal of Historical Geography 31 (2005): 563-567.

  • A review essay of three books in world environmental history: David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, John Richards, The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World, and John C. Weaver, The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-1900.


    Prospective Students

    I welcome applications from students interested in historical geography-environmental history, environmental social movements, and animal geography. While I serve on committees of students who do work outside North America, I generally do not supervise MA or PhD students who hope to undertake research in places other than the United States or Canada. Those interested in environment-society research outside North America, especially in the Global South, might consider contacting my colleagues Tom Perreault or Farhana Sultana, both of whom do research outside North America and supervise students who do work there. 

    Current Advisees

    Jon Erickson (M.A. Program).

    • Research Interests: environment-society geography, agricultural and environmental history, political economy, California.

    Tina Catania (Ph.D. Program) 

    • Research Interests: political geography, race and migration, gender and the body, identity, feminist geography, Italy.

    Pam Sertzen (Ph.D. Program)

    • Research Interests: collective memory, urban geography, activist research and public ethnography, Brazil.

    Jared Whear (Ph.D. Program)

    • Research Interests: water management and policy, environmental social movements, western United States.  

    Past Advisees

    Kristin Culter (M.A., 2014), Administrator, Rescue City: Pet Adoption Center

    Brent Olson (Ph.D., 2012), Assistant Professor, Westminster College

    Jeremy Bryson (Ph.D., 2010), Assistant Professor, Weber State University

    Teaching Appointments

    Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Syracuse University (2011-present)
    Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Syracuse University (2005-2011)

    Visiting Appointments

    Carson Fellow, Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, 2016
    Visiting Scholar, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University (2008-2009)
    NSF Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of History and Philosophy, Montana State University-Bozeman (2004-2005)

    Research Projects

    I am an environment-society geographer with interests in historical geography, environmental history, animal geography, and environmental social movements. Although I am now working on contemporary issues, much of my previous work focused on historical events and processes.

    Historical Geography and Environmental History. My book Seeking Refuge: Birds and Landscapes of the Pacific Flyway explores the development of a constellation of wildlife refuges for migratory birds in western North America during the twentieth century. It focuses on the social and political struggles involved in carving out spaces in the West to sustain these birds amid landscapes devoted largely to irrigated, industrial agriculture. Some the main areas I studied included the Klamath Basin, the Central Valley, and the Salton Sea.

    I have also examined the historical geography and environmental history of Japanese American incarceration during the Second World War. I was particularly interested in a number of facets related to this topic, including the surveying and selection of camp locations, the development of landscapes to intern Japanese Americans, and the fate of the camps after the war. This project brought together elements of an older cultural geography that examined the built environment with more recent concerns in cultural landscape studies on issues of race, place, and identity.

    Environmental Social Movements. My project “Forging the Climate Movement” examines the demonstrations, organizations, and individuals involved in the North American climate movement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cope with consequences of global warming. I am focusing in particular on the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil derived from tar sands in Alberta to Texas. For opponents, this pipeline has become a focal point of efforts to stop or alter fossil-fuel infrastructure that might facilitate the further exploitation of fossil fuels.

    Seeking Refuge also studied histories of environmental reform from a historical perspective, especially conservation during the Progressive era and New Deal as well environmentalism from the late 1960s onwards.

    Animal Geography. This sub-field of geography examines the connections between humans and animals employing perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. Topics animal geographers have explored include animals as part of colonial settlement, livestock in small-scale farms and industrial operations, animals as laborers, companion animals and domestic spaces, and wildlife and protected areas.

    My book Seeking Refuge was one of the first monographs in animal geography (see above for a summary). In addition to this, I have published an overview of animals and landscapes in American history for a new edited collection on the historical geography of the United States and an article on the ways people have affected, or been affected by, animal migration in North American history. Currently, I am completing a chapter on the cultural and historical geography of the return of white-tailed deer to the Northeast U.S. after being extirpated in the nineteenth century. 

    Professional Service

    Series Advisor, Syracuse Studies in Geography, Syracuse University Press (2012-present)

    Editorial Board, Journal of Historical Geography, (2015-present)

    Editorial Board, Historical Geography, (2014-present)

    Chair, AAG Historical Geography Specialty Group (2011-2014)

    Coordinator, SU Environment and Society Minor (2011-2014)

    Undergraduate Director, Department of Geography (2010-2011, 2013-2014)

    Book Review Co-Editor, H-HistGeog (2010-2014)