About Curt D. Gervich, PhD.
I grew up in Iowa Falls, Iowa-- a small, agricultural dependent community hit hard by the farm crisis of the 1980s. When I was a child I watched my family's friends sell their farms to international agricultural corporations or go bankrupt. The events that took place in my hometown when I was six and seven years old--the conversion of diversified family farms to monoculture operations owned by absentee corporations; the closing of our local meat-packing plant; the decline of our centrally located, independently owned downtown businesses--clearly illustrated the interdependence of my community's ecological, economic and social contexts. These circumstances sparked my interest in exploring social-ecological systems.
I attended college at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating in 1998 I conducted ecological field research for the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I then interned with the Alaska Boreal Forest Council and Alaska Bird Observatory.
In 2001 I began a Master's degree program in Natural Resource Planning at the University of Vermont. My research addressed the social networks integrated into the business practices of forest dependent business owners in central Vermont. My thesis focused on the ways that community relationships influenced decision making by timber and non-timber dependent business owners. Many of the maple syrup producers, loggers, sawmill operators, furniture makers, blueberry pickers and herbalists I interviewed relied heavily on social networks to achieve success in their businesses. The personal relationships involved in these businesses created the fabric of community where these individuals lived. Business life, family life and social life were deeply interconnected, and all were reliant upon a common appreciation and respect for the natural environment of central Vermont. I completed my Master's of Science degree in 2004.
In 2003 I was hired as Outreach Coordinator and Watershed Planner for the University of Georgia's River Basin Center in the Eugene Odum Institute of Ecology. I facilitated the development and adoption of the Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan, which protected three species of threatened and endangered fish in north Georgia's Etowah watershed. The Etowah HCP was a collaborative effort among 20+ local governments and several government agencies and environmemntal NGOs including the US Fish & Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy among others. The final HCP was the first interjurisdictional, watershed-based HCP in the country and now serves as a model for habitat conservation planning under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2006 I began my doctorate in Environmental Design & Planning at Virginia Tech's School for Public and International Affairs. My dissertation research focused on decision making for sustainability in a large organic farming cooperative in Central Appalachia. I employed critical incident analysis to dissect the decision making processes, values and tensions within the cooperative's membership and leaders. My research contributed to theory about sustainability, environmental leadership and governance, and environmental decision making.
I currently serve as an Assistant Professor in the Center for Earth & Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh. I began this post in 2010, immediately after completing my doctorate. I teach courses in environmental leadership, management, sustainability and policy. In addition, I design eco-educational games and simulations that teach conventional environmental disciplinary content as well as difficult-to-teach skills including conflict management, collaboration, data-driven decision making and interest-based negotiation. I incorporate new technologies such as online tools, current software applications, film-making and gaming into my courses. I reinvent my courses nearly every semester and frequently incorporate service and experiential learning into my curricula.
I have several ongoing research projects and almost all involve students. I am currently supported by a Northeastern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to explore decision making and leadership among small-scale sustainable farmers in the Adirondacks. My students and I are interviewing regional farmers to develop a list of decision-making best practices and are developing a series of decision support workshops based on our learning. These workshops will be hosted in winter, 2014-2015.
I hold several service positions at SUNY Plattsburgh and in the Adirondack Community. I currently chair SUNY Plattsburgh's Campus Committee for Environmental Responsibility. I also serve on the Lake Champlain Basin Program's Technical Advisory Committee and was recently appointed to the City of Plattsburgh's Planning Board.