University of Wisconsin–Madison

Daniel Grant

Ph.D. Candidate


M.S. Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015 (Advisor: Bill Cronon) B.A. Politics-Environmental Studies with honors, Whitman College, 2010

Research Areas

19th- and 20th-century environmental history and historical geography of North America; race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity; environmental justice; political ecology; cultural geography; North American West; U.S.-Mexico borderlands; GIS and digital humanities; public humanities; narrative nonfiction

Current Research

The Colorado River does not adhere to the political boundaries it supposedly defines. In my dissertation, I investigate the ways in which the river's migrations across its floodplain made and re-made territorial boundaries separating African-Americans, Yuma Indians, and Cocopah Indians, and how these communities responded with alliances and violence to stay rooted to their respective territories. Through archvial, ethnographic, and oral history research in the U.S. and Mexico supported by the National Science Foundation, I focus on each community's history in relation to the river and one another. My project recalls an era of flux, when boundaries and political loyalties changed with the river's currents, to reframe the history of settler colonialism in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands as multiple, not binary. Combining environmental history, historical political ecology, and critical border studies, my project advances the concept of "fluid geographies" to show how histories of power were routed through a dynamic river to shape landscapes of belonging and exclusion among multiple communities on both sides of the border.

My dissertation reflects several of my broader commitments as a scholar: focusing on inseparable histories of race and environmental change in borderlands to challenge the way we think about sustainable communities across the North American West; tracing the historical roots of contemporary conflicts over environmental justice among Indigenous and minority communities; and building diverse coalitions through community-engaged scholarship, interdisciplinary collaborations, and the digital humanities. By taking this history from the archive into the present day and interviewing these communities' descendants--each still fighting to inhabit the same lands--my goal is to expose the deeper historical origins of contemporary borderlands disputes such as the construction of a border wall, water scarcity, and violent immigration laws. As a public extension of this work, I lead public history conversations at libraries that bring together descendants of the communities I am writing about to grapple with the contemporary legacies of their shared but troubled pasts. This work has been recognized through a Mellon Foundation grant in Applied History at the University of Colorado-Boulder's Center of the American West. And I will use GIS, student involvement, and collaboration with colleagues at other institutions to build an interdisciplinary digital storytelling platform on North American river history.

Courses Taught

Cartography of Environmental Disasters: Visiting Faculty (Instructor of Record), Middlebury College, Winter Term 2017

The Making of the American Landscape: History/Geog/Env Studies 469, TA, Fall 2016

Global Warming Science and Impacts: Geog/AOS/Env Studies 332, TA, Spring 2016

American Environmental History: History/Geog/Env Studies 460, TA, Spring 2015 & Fall 2015

Resources and People: Geog/Env Studies 139, TA, Fall 2013 & Fall 2014

Introduction to Human Geography: Geog 101, TA, Spring 2014


American Historical Association (AHA); American Society for Environmental History (ASEH); Association of American Geographers (AAG); Western History Association (WHA); UW-Madison Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE); Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) 

Recent Publications

Grant, Daniel. "Tapping the Past for California's Water Future." Edge Effects. June 23, 2015. 

Grant, Daniel. "The Watering of California's Central Valley." Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia 2015, no. 1. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

Awards and Honors

Mellon/American Council for Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship 

National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award

Mellon-Wisconsin Fellowship

National Science Foundation Novel Ecosystems IGERT Fellow

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention

Western History Assocation Graduate Student Prize

Arizona Historical Society Research Grant

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

550 North Park Street

Madison, Wisconsin 53706


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