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Sources: David Vail,;
and Jim Wells,
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-2535,

Monday, May 10, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Two Kansas State University doctoral candidates have received grants to help further research for their dissertations.

David Vail, doctoral candidate in history, Manhattan, has received two travel research grants from the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, Pa., while Jim Wells, doctoral candidate in geography, Averill Park, N.Y., has received a grant from the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University.

Vail will use his two grants, which total $1,250, to study materials at the Chemical Heritage Foundation related to his dissertation, "Poison Winds Over Chemical Lands: A Toxic History of the Postwar Prairie West." He plans to make several weeklong trips to the library throughout the summer.

"My dissertation is an environmental-agricultural history on petrochemicals in the post-World War II Prairie West, with specific emphasis on agricultural aviation and grassroots chemical development. I also am conducting an oral history project with duster pilots throughout Kansas and the Great Plains as part of my dissertation work," Vail said.

"The Chemical Heritage Foundation has numerous collections of monographs, periodicals and oral histories that directly relate to the development, use and safety of agricultural chemicals," he said.

Vail plans to finish his doctorate in 2012 and would like to teach history at the university level. His major professor is Jim Sherow, professor of history.

Wells will use his $1,500 grant -- with an additional grant of $1,500 possible next year -- toward the completion of his dissertation, "Landscape Change in the American West: A Rephotography of U.S. Highway 89."

"Essentially, I am using a set of 53 photographs from the early 1980s to depict how the West has changed over the past quarter century," Wells said. "Much of my research has been completed, though this money will allow me to tie up all loose ends. I still need to photograph one site at Sunset Crater National Monument in Arizona, as well as visit several sections of road in both Arizona and Utah that I missed during my first pass through the region.

"If I am granted additional funding next year, I intend to use that grant to help in the publication of a book relating to my findings," he said.

After earning his doctorate in 2011, Wells said he is considering two main career paths.

"I will definitely be applying to teach geography at the university level, with a focus on the human/cultural side of the discipline. However, because I enjoyed the year I worked with them so much, there is also a chance that I will return to the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger, allowing me to educate people about the world around them."

Wells' major professor is Kevin Blake, professor of geography.

The mission of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies is to promote the study of the Intermountain West by sponsoring research, publication, teaching and public programs in a variety of academic disciplines including history, geography, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, literature, art, folklore, range science, forestry, and popular culture.