Geo / ES 309: People, Land & Food

Welcome to the “People, Land and Food” course website!  You can download a syllabus here to learn more.

The ways in which our society uses and transforms land to produce food has impacted our world more than any other environmental change.  This course will explore real-world examples and together we will investigate solutions to improve our use of land and food production strategies. We will also go beyond the walls of the classroom to study our campus and city community, and work towards making change through group research and service-learning projects.

I greatly enjoy teaching this course, and it has been very well received in the past.  You can read a sample of direct quotes from students here.  We are very fortunate to have been awarded a grant from the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Sustainability to improve the service learning component in Fall 2013 and will have some exciting new opportunities!  I hope you can join us!

Please email me with any questions (

Holly Gibbs


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Holly Gibbs

I am an Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, and part of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and the Wisconsin Energy Initiative.  A physical scientist by training, I focus on interdisciplinary, applied questions around land-use change, globalization, environment, and policy.  I investigate how and why people clear tropical forests or change agricultural practices around the world and what that means for climate change, biodiversity and social justice.  Much of my time is spent behind a computer using satellite images and models to understand land use but I also spend quite a bit of time exploring communities and conditions in tropical countries especially Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and Ethiopia.

I am passionate about using my academic scholarship to change the world. Throughout my career, I have worked closely with policymakers, business leaders and non-governmental organizations to ensure that the science I conduct matters.  Accordingly, I am highly committed to teaching and love the opportunity to share my experience and expertise with students while also learning from them.  Teaching “People, Land and Food” is a dream come true for me as I am passionate about the topic and eager to consider opportunities to make a difference here at home as well as around the world!  I enjoy sharing my on-the-ground experiences with students whether from testifying at a political hearing about the impacts of crop-based biofuels on climate, assisting climate negotiators from developing countries, measuring trees or interviewing farmers in the tropics.

You can learn more about me and my research here:


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Amanda Mcmillan

I am a PhD student in Sociology, specializing in Community and Environmental Sociology and affiliated witht Center for Culture, History, and Environment. My research asks questions about the connections between rural communities and their natural environments through the lens of agriculture. I’m passionate about tracing connections between place, culture, and “home.” I’m particularly interested in agriculture as a mechanism of community re-establishment, environmental conservation, and land tenure in places recuperating from disaster or change. As an undergrad, I studied land tenure in Swaziland and led groups of volunteers to work on urban gardens in Pennsylvania. In the ‘real world,’ I worked with a non-profit nature conservation organization in southern France, and taught at an agricultural after school club in inner city Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Now in graduate school, I’m both a learner and a teacher; for my master’s, I studied the “why” of family farmland continuity in Wisconsin, and I am exploring dissertation research in rural Africa. I am delighted to TA for “People, Land, and Food,” joining you in conversation and critical questioning about the complexities and challenges of human-land relationships.