About Me

The Author: Dr. Josh MacFadyen

I am an Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. In 2014 I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Historical GIS Lab at the University of Saskatchewan, and from 2012-2014 I was NiCHE Project Coordinator and Course Instructor at the University of Western Ontario.

I am co-investigator on the Sustainable Farm Systems project where I am building on the work of the Great Plains Population and Environment Project and studying energy flows and energy return on investment (EROI) in agro-ecosystems. More broadly, I am interested in the problems of modern agriculture and how Canadians did — and could — stay warm and fed in a world with much less fossil fuel. My detailed research interests are outlined here.

I also design web maps and mobile apps for teaching environmental history in the classroom and the field (see the NiCHE website).

This photo was taken on mussel beds in the North River of Prince Edward Island. Farmers once dug up the shells and mud from these beds to treat the soil for acidity.

This photo was taken on mussel beds in the North River of Prince Edward Island. Farmers once dug up the shells and mud from these beds to treat the soil for acidity.

Curriculum Vitae

School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies
School of Sustainability
Arizona State University
Coor Hall, 975 S. Myrtle Ave
P.O.Box 874302 Tempe, AZ 85287-4302


Professional Preparation

  • 2010, PhD., University of Guelph, Guelph (History).
  • 2003, M.A., University of Waterloo, Waterloo (History).
  • 2002, B.A., University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown (History).

Research Projects

  • SSHRC Research Program: “Hewers of wood: Canadian biomass energy in the age of coal, 1850-1950,”
  • Editor (with Edward MacDonald, and Irene Novaczek): Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island. Submitted to McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013. Publisher website.
    • Includes authoring chapter “The Fertile Crescent: Agricultural Land Use on Prince Edward Island, 1861-1971.”


  • “Hewers of Wood: A History of Wood Energy in Canada,” in Ruth Sandwell ed., Powering Up: The History of Fuel, Power and Energy in Canada, 1800-2015 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 129-161. Publisher website.
  • “Spinning flax in mills, households, and the Canadian state, 1850-1870,” in James Murton and Dean Bavington eds., Bringing Subsistence Out of the Shadows: Nature and Economy in Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 76-102. Publisher website.
  • “Top-down history: Delimiting forests, farms, and the Agricultural Census on Prince Edward Island using Aerial Photography, c.1900-2000,” with William Glen, in Jennifer Bonnell and Marcel Fortin eds., Historical Geographic Information Systems in Canada, University of Calgary Press, Canadian History & Environment Series, 2013.
  • “Drawing Lines in the Ice: Regulating Mussel Mud Digging in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence,” in Claire Campbell and Robert Summerby-Murray eds., Environmental Histories of Atlantic Canada, Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 2013, 99-119.
  • Breaking Sod or Breaking Even? Flax on the Northern Great Plains and Prairies, 1889-1930,” Agricultural History 83(2) (Spring 2009): 221-246.


  • “Fuel Wood,” and “Cotton,” in Kathleen A. Brosnan (Ed.), Encyclopedia of American Environmental History, Vols 1 and 2 (New York: Facts on File, 2011), 344-346, 596-597.


Selected articles on The Otter – NiCHE Group Blog (See the complete list here)

Recent Contracted Projects

  • 2014, September, Consultant, Cultural Values in the Coastal Zone, climate change adaptation project, for Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI / PEI First Nations (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)
  • 2012, August, GIS Analyst, ParCA: Partnership for Canada-Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation; geospatial data gathering, assessment and classification for University of Prince Edward Island Climate Lab
  • 2010, May, “Maps as resources for landscape and land use history,” and “Cartographic records and genealogical research,” Learning Guides for the Island Imagined Project, Robertson Library, University of Prince Edward Island (http://www.islandimagined.ca/guides)
  • 2009-2010, Socio-Cultural Values Mapping: A Prince Edward Island Case Study, Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island (http://discoveryspace.upei.ca/vmp/).

Recent Talks

  • “Hewers of Wood: Canadian Biomass Energy in the Age of Coal,” Association of Canadian Studies in the United States, Las Vegas, NV, October 2015.
  • “A Cold Confederation: Urban Energy Linkages in Canada,” The Dominion of Nature: Canadian Confederation and the Environment, workshop, Charlottetown, PE, July 2014.
  • “The business of biomass: Canadian firewood suppliers in the nineteenth century,” Canadian Business and Environmental History workshop, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, May 2014.
  • “Top-Down History: Aerial Photography and Farm Woodlot Management in Prince Edward Island, 1935-1958,” Agricultural History Society, Banff, AB, June 2013.
  •  “Re-thinking the 20th Century as the Age of Abundant Energy,” a Roundtable at the Canadian Historical Association annual meeting, Victoria, BC, June 2013.
  • “Making Environmental History Public,” a Roundtable at the National Council of Public History meeting, Ottawa, ON, April 2013.
  • “Out of the Market’s Shadow: Subsistence as the Primary Concern of Environmental History,” a Roundtable at the American Society for Environmental History meeting, and Joshua MacFadyen and Alan MacEachern, “Time Flies: Aerial Photography and Landscape Change in Prince Edward Island, 1935-2010,” Toronto, ON, April 2013.
  • “The Fertile Crescent: Wildland Resource Management in Prince Edward Island, 1871-1935,” Canadian Historical Association / Canadian Association of Geographers joint session, Waterloo, ON, May 2012.
  • Co-organizer, Time and a Place: Environmental Histories, Environmental Futures, and PEI, Charlottetown, PE, July 2010.

School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies

School of Sustainability

Arizona State University

Coor Hall, 975 S. Myrtle Ave

P.O.Box 874302 Tempe, AZ 85287-4302

4 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Josh,

    Have been reading and enjoying some of your work, and wondered if you might consider writing something for the magazine I edit. Are you familiar with Rural Delivery? We’re primarily a small farm publication serving the Atlantic provinces, but with an interest in broader issues related to land use, fisheries, energy, sustainability, etc. Definitely not scholarly in terms of style, but philosophical in our approach. If you would contemplate contributing something based on one or more of your many research interests, maybe we could discuss possible topics.


    Dave Lindsay

    • Thanks for reading the blog and getting in touch. I’d be keen to write something for Rural Delivery at some point. A short article in early 2016 could coincide nicely with the launch of my new book _Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island_ (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016) which includes chapters on land use, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc. The book is available for preorder at http://www.amazon.ca/dp/0773546928

      Please do contact me by email joshmacfadyen@gmail.com and we can discuss.

      Josh MacFadyen

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