Melissa Charenko

Position: Assistant Professor
Fields: History of Science, Environmental History, 20th Century

Office: 208A Old Horticulture Building
Phone: 517-884-4885

Dr. Charenko is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History (25%) and Lyman Briggs College (75%). She received her PhD in History of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. Her work explores the politics of knowledge production in twentieth century ecology. She is especially interested in the techniques developed by ecologists in order to understand the changing dynamics of human-environment interactions over the last 12,000 years. Known as proxy techniques, these techniques allow ecologists to reconstruct past environments using fossilized columns of microorganisms such as pollen, algae, and sloth dung. She also argues that this focus on the deep past allowed ecologists to forecast the future, although there was a constant struggle to establish whether historical data, which formed the basis of forecasts, properly captured past events and could be used for predictions.

Dr. Charenko has been a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and her work has been supported by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.