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Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work

Trevor J. Durbin, PhD


204 Waters Hall Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS 66506

Phone: 785-532-4966

Email: tdurbin@ksu.edu


Trevor Durbin’s fascination with both the sciences and humanities resulted in a BS in biochemistry with a minor in Great Books from Pacific Union College (2007) and a PhD in cultural anthropology from Rice University (2015) where he cultivated interests in medical and environmental anthropology and science and technology studies. His research revolves around two loosely related questions. First, how are humans and non-humans attempting to survive, and even thrive, in a time of large-scale and often intense environmental change? These changes are associated with economic, technological, and political shifts that communities negotiate and individuals engage ethically and emotionally. He explored this question in his dissertation where he asked how the Cook Islands, like other small island nations, negotiates an ambiguous and risky position when facing the combined challenges of climate change (including ocean acidification, sea-level rise, and intensified storms), overfishing, marine pollution, severe economic vulnerability to the vagaries of global markets, colonial legacies, and domestic challenges. This work was nominated for the John W. Gardner Award for Best Dissertation in the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rice University. In a related project, he is conducting ethnographic research in Custer, SD to better understand how communities use ritual and play to cope with large-scale landscape and ecological change associated with mountain pine beetle epidemics.

A second question explores how the human sciences can facilitate practical solutions to urgent problems. Dr. Durbin has shown how the theories and methods of cultural anthropology can help address contemporary challenges as a contractor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), located in Apia, Samoa. This applied research has been used to understand how Key Biodiversity Areas can be better integrated with local needs and knowledge in the Republic of Kiribati and to demonstrate how the precautionary principle might be applied to proposed deep sea minerals mining by Pacific Island countries. In addition, Dr. Durbin has contributed to scholarly conversations on how the social and human sciences can be used to improve the practice of nature conservation, while a current project focuses on the cultural and social dimensions of forest management, specifically. For this research, he received a grant from the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health & Safety Emerging Issues Program.

The most enriching dimension of Dr. Durbin’s work involves talking about and doing anthropology with students at K-State where he teaches Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Medical Anthropology, Environmental Anthropology, and Anthropological Theory.

Selected Publications

Refereed Articles

  • Trevor J. Durbin, Casper G. Bendixsen, Danielle Jensen-Ryan, Abigaile Molzer & Sarah Strauss (2019) "The Dangerous Middle: Situational Awareness and Worker Perception of Beetle Kill." Journal of Agromedicine 

  • Trevor J Durbin (2018) “‘What now, Fishgate?’: Scandal, Marae Moana, and Nation Making in the Cook Islands.” The Contemporary Pacific, 30:1.

  • James Bennett, Robin Roth, Sarah C Klain, Kai Chan, Patrick Christie, Douglas A Clark, Georgina Cullman, Deborah Curran, Trevor J Durbin, Graham Epstein, Alison Greenberg, Michael P Nelson, John Sandlos, Richard Stedman, Tara L Teel, Rebecca Thomas, Diogo Veríssimo, Carina Wyborn (2017) “Conservation Social Science: Understanding and Integrating Human Dimensions to Improve Conservation.” Biological Conservation, 205, 93-108.
  • Cymene Howe, Jessica Lockrem, Hannah Appel, Edward Hackett, Dominic Boyer, Randall Hall, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Albert Pope, Akhil Gupta, Elizabeth Rodwell, Andrea Ballestero, Trevor Durbin, Fares el-Dahdah, Elizabeth Long, Cyrus Mody (2015) “Paradoxical Infrastructures: Ruins, Retrofit & Risk.” Science, Technology, and Human Values, 41(3), 547-565.

Other Professional Publications

  • Trevor Durbin (2015) “Loving, Eating, Teaching, and Wayfaring in the Anthropocene.” Engagement: A blog published by the Anthropology and Environment Society, https://aesengagement.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/loving-eating-teaching-and-wayfaring-in-the-anthropocene/