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Department of Sociology Environment, Technology, and Sustainability
Sociologists at WSU study society-environment interactions with an eye to identifying and evaluating solutions to ecological problems. Our areas of expertise are in environmental movements, local food movements, sustainable consumption, sustainable energy provision, rural livelihoods, and environmental concern.


Core Faculty in Area

Selected Examples of Faculty Research in this Area:


Modernizing the electric grid to incorporate renewable energy while maintaining reliability is key to societal sustainability. Dr. Christine Horne is working on an NSF-funded project to assess the implications of increased dependence on Information and Communication Technology for the resilience of the electric grid. Further, Dr. Christine Horne  is collaborating with WSU engineers and computer scientists to identify factors that motivate consumer engagement with the energy delivery system.

Graduate Students:

Yikang Bai



Understanding how and why people make decisions to produce food in low-impact, sustainable ways is key to influencing transitions away from large-scale, pesticide-intensive production. Dr. Jennifer Sherman works with a team of multidisciplinary researchers to understand pesticide use decisions in agriculture.

Graduate Students:

Jordan Burke


Selected Publications:

Sherman, Jennifer and David H. Gent. 2014. “Concepts of Sustainability, Motivations for Pest Management Approaches, and Implications for Communicating Change.” Plant Disease 98(8): 1024-1035.

Grant Activity:

Western Integrated Pest Management Center Competitive Grants Program, Co-Program Director, 2016. “Network Characteristics and Modeling of Powdery Mildew Spread: Foundations for Area-Wide IPM.” Grant total $30,000 for one year.
U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Co-Program Director, 2014-2018. “Reducing the Impact of Industry-Critical Insect and Disease Problems in Hops through Development of Preventive and Predictive Strategies.” Grant total: $3,169,180 for 4 years.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Co-Program Director, 2010-2014. “Agronomic, Biochemical, Social, and Economic Impacts of Biotic and Abiotic Stress on Pacific Northwest Flavor Crops.” Grant total $3.1 million over 5 years.
Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program Western Region, UC-Davis, Co-Program Director, 2010-2013. “IPM Adoption: Motivations, Barriers, and Subjective Risk Assessments in Contract Agriculture.” Grant total $179,168 over 3 years.


Environmental crime, virtually unheard of before 1970 when it was regularly accepted practice to dump (toxic) wastes directly into air, water and/or unlined pits as part of routine industrial activity, is now the focus of an Environmental Crimes Section at the US Department of Justice that employs some 40 full-time prosecutors (DOJ 2012). Yet scholars know surprisingly little about environmental crimes. Dr.s Erik Johnson and Jennifer Schwartz have initiated a collaborative project examining the population of criminally prosecuted environmental offenses from 1983-2010. We ask what is defined as serious environmental criminal acts and what are the characteristics of offenders, how those change over time, and how relevant cases compare to more commonly studied administrative and civil environmental violations as well as to other types of white collar crimes.


Erik Johnson

Jennifer Schwartz

Graduate Students:

Alana Inlow

Undergraduate student Christina Hubbard received an Undergraduate Summer Minigrant from the Washington State University College of Arts and Sciences in 2016 to work on this project. She presented the findings of her research on the “Effects of Poverty on Sentencing for Environmental Crimes” at the 2017 WSU research Showcase.

Selected Publications:
Johnson, Erik W., Alana R. Inlow, and Jennifer Schwartz. “The Most Serious Environmental Offenses Identified and Prosecuted by the Federal Government, 1982-2010.” Drafted in preparation for submission to Environmental Politics.