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Source: David Vail,
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-6415,

Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Support from the Kansas State Historical Society is helping a Kansas State University graduate student with his research exploring the history of petrochemical use, environmental use and impact, and postwar agricultural development in Kansas and the prairie West.

David Vail, Manhattan, a doctoral student in American history with an emphasis in environmental history, history of the American West and agricultural history, recently received the historical society's prestigious Alfred M. Landon Historical Research Award to support his dissertation, which is tentatively titled "Kill That Thistle: Rogue Sprayers, Bootlegged Chemicals and the Kansas Chemical Laws, 1950-1980."

"My interest in this topic comes from my passion for understanding the links between humans and the environment and the complicated interplay of economy, society, politics and culture on that relationship throughout the 20th century," Vail said. "I would like to thank the Kansas State Historical Society and Virgil Dean, the society's director of publications, for their financial support through the Landon award and ongoing research help."

The Landon award is named in honor of former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon and provides promising researchers with funds to help them access the archival sources of the Kansas State Historical Society.

Vail, who earned a bachelor's in history from Southern Oregon University and a master's in history from Utah State University, chose to pursue his Ph.D. at K-State because of the university's reputation in American history.

"The department of history at K-State is becoming quite renowned for its expertise in environmental history, history of the American West and agricultural history," Vail said. "The department also has exceptional professors who specialize in these fields, including Jim Sherow, my adviser, and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow."

Along with his research, Vail also has assisted the department of history with several major projects, including planning for the department's Workshop for the History of Environment, Agricultural, Technology and Science in fall 2008 that brought graduate scholars from across the U.S. to K-State; and the Kansas History Day district competition at K-State in spring 2008 for elementary, middle school and high school students.

Vail is originally from Medford, Ore., and is the son of Doug and Cheryl Vail, also of Medford.