Kate Darby

Associate Professor · she/her


My work is driven by three goals: 1) To teach my students to think critically about environmental and social issues, while providing them with tools for moving forward in their lives and careers, 2To conduct research that helps explain why and how society ends up with conditions of environmental and social injustice, and 3) To connect this work to relevant stakeholders to improve the condition of communities in which I teach and conduct research. As a graduate student, I focused on understanding how and why environmental injustices are produced, and my doctoral dissertation applied this lens to the communities surrounding a metals smelter in El Paso del Norte. Over the last few years, my work has begun to focus more on understanding the lived experiences of those facing environmental injustices and exploring how these experiences can inform practice and instigate socio-environmental change. Recent research projects in these areas include an ethnographic study of low-income vegetable gardeners in Western Pennsylvania to understand the role(s) gardening plays for these households and a photovoice project that uses photography to reveal how youth in assisted housing view their environments. One thread of my current research examines effective engagement techniques for environmental justice teaching and learning in higher education. I am also beginning a new project that examines the ways in which sensory claims – those based on experiential knowledge related to sight, sound, smell or taste – have been asserted by environmental justice communities, and taken up in decision-making processes. I hold a B.S. in Chemical Engineering (minor in Science, Technology and Society) from Penn State, an M.S. in Environmental Studies and Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Environment, Science and Technology and Urban Ecology focus) from Arizona State University. My academic training has been punctuated by sustainability work in the private sector with environmental consulting companies and NGOs. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and kids (Emmett and Sasha), cooking and creating things, and contemplating and visiting dystopian landscapes.


PhD Anthropology, Arizona State University; MS Environmental Studies and Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management, University of Oregon; BS Chemical Engineering, Penn State

Research Interests

Social and environmental justice, environmental justice pedagogy in higher education, sustainable food systems and urban socio-ecological systems.


Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles (* indicates student author) Plano, C.*, Darby, K., Schaffer, C. Jadud, M. “"Considering Public Transit: New insights into job and healthy food access for low-income residents in Baltimore, MD" Environmental Justice, 8(3), 2015 Darby, K., and C. Atchison. “Environmental justice: insights from an interdisciplinary instructional workshop”. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 4, 2014, 288-293 Darby, K. “Lead astray: scale, environmental justice, and the El Paso smelter”. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 17(8), 2012 Munoz-Erickson, T., Cutts, B., Larson, E., Darby, K., Neff, M., Wutich, A., Bolin, B. “Spanning Boundaries in an Arizona Watershed Partnership: Information Networks as Tools for Entrenchment or Ties for Collaboration”, Ecology and Society 15(3), 2010. Cutts, B., Darby, K., Boone, C., Brewis, A., “City structure, obesity, and environmental justice: An integrated analysis of physical and social barriers to walkable streets and park access” Social Science and Medicine  69 (2009), pp. 1314-1322 Bolin, B., Collins, T., Darby, K., “ Fate of the Verde: Water, Environmental Conflict, and the Politics of Scale in Arizona’s Central Highlands” Geoforum, 39(3), May 2008, 1494-151 Other peer-reviewed publications Darby, K. "The Lived Experiences of Climate Change" Teaching Module. 2017. Available at http://serc.carleton.edu/bioregion/examples/184616.html  Darby, K, Phillips L., Phillips, M. “Mapping the Environment with Sensory Perception” Teaching Module. Available at http://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/teaching_materials/map_sense/index.html Darby, K. “Introducing the conflicting meanings of “justice” using a candy-distribution exercise” In Learner-Centered Teaching Activities for Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Byrne, L., ed. Springer Press (2015) Phillips, L., Phillips, M. Darby, K.. "Mapping the environment with sensory perception: An interdisciplinary module for examining environmental contamination and impact [abstract]” In: Geological Society of America abstracts; 2015 Nov 4; Baltimore, MD; GSA Conference.