Laura S. Meitzner Yoder

Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Environmental Education Department (SEED)
Contact info
Office: Merry Lea Learning Center Building 
Phone: (260) 799-5869 
B.A., Natural Science/Biology, Messiah College, 1993
M.P.S., International Agriculture and Rural Development, Cornell University, 1998 
Ph.D., Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 2005
Click here for CV 
My journey to environmental anthropology and political ecology 
I am committed to initiatives that build people’s fullness of life, combining thoughtful resource use and people’s abilities to provide for basic needs. In my early studies in biology and tropical agriculture, this took shape with a focus on biodiversity and sustainable food production in marginal growing conditions. 
Living and working with forest dwellers and subsistence farmers piqued my interest in the circumstances that constrain their livelihoods. This led me to examine the social and political aspects of environmental choices and ecological change. My current interests in political ecology center on the policies and practices surrounding land and forest claims, ownership, and access. 
Central themes 
My students learn about the linkages between political strategies and environmental outcomes, where human and ecological concerns intersect. Together we identify the sources of our own knowledge and opinions about the natural world and our place in it, and juxtapose this against other views to understand the possibilities for dialogue and joint action on environmental issues. Through the lens of environmental justice, we examine how resource use decisions are made and implemented, particularly for common resources, and the differential costs and benefits to various groups affected by these decisions. 
My courses 
Learning by doing, talking with a range of people who hold opposing or unexpected views, and collectively working through problems are highly effective teaching tools. I teach Research Methods in Merry Lea’s Master’s program, and starting Fall 2012 I will teach in the undergraduate Sustainability Semester in Residence. My students should expect to be active learners and to participate wholeheartedly in shaping the trajectory of the course. 
International experience 
After several years working with agricultural development in the highlands of Ecuador and Honduras, I began an extended chapter in Southeast Asia. I taught in field-based research training programs at state universities in Papua (1998-2000) and post-tsunami Aceh (2005-08), Indonesia. I also conducted dissertation research in the fledgling nation of East Timor/Timor Leste (2001-2004). I have taught undergraduates with experiential environmental education programs in northwestern Thailand (2009-11) and Bhutan (2012). I enjoy learning how people’s experiences and backgrounds contribute to their environmental priorities and perspectives. 
Presentation topics 
Commons and property aspects of international development interventions 
Environmental implications of our views of humans' place in nature
Southeast Asian forest history and politics 
History, trends, and ideologies in relief and development work 
Tropical agriculture and swidden systems
Selected publications 
Gill, T. B., Bates, R., Bicksler, A., Burnette, R., Ricciardi, V., & Yoder, L. (2013). Strengthening informal seed systems to enhance food security in Southeast Asia. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Advance online publication.
Meitzner Yoder, Laura S., Tom Hartzell, Jonathon Schramm, and Lisa Zinn. 2013. “Building and boarding a bigger boat together: Learning about sustainability through direct encounters with diverse people in our watershed.”  Journal of Sustainability Education.

Meitzner Yoder, Laura S., David Ostergren, and Jonathon Schramm.  2013.  “Lessons on the Landscape: Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College.”  Sustainability: The Journal of Record 6(2):93-96.
2012. "Using institutional arrangements to teach undergraduates about the commons in Thailand, and beyond." International Journal of the Commons 6(2):363-385. With A. Bicksler.
2012. Methodologies for strengthening informal indigenous vegetable seed systems in northern Thailand and Cambodia. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 958:67-74.  With A. Bicksler, R. Bates, R. Burnette, T. Gill, V. Ricciardi, and Y. Srigiofun.
2012. Seed fairs: Fostering local seed exchange to support regional biodiversity. ECHO Asia Notes 12. With V. Ricciardi.
2011. “Political ecologies of wood and wax: Sandalwood and beeswax as symbols and shapers of customary authority in the Oecusse enclave, Timor.” Journal of Political Ecology 18:11-24. 
2011. “Tensions of tradition: Making and remaking claims to land in the Oecusse enclave.”  In Land and Life in Timor-Leste: Ethnographic Essays, eds. A. McWilliam and E.G. Traube, pp. 187-216.  Canberra: ANU E Press.  
2010. “Seeking Environmental Justice in Southeast Asia.” The Well.
2007. “Hybridising justice: State-customary interactions over forest crime and punishment in Oecusse, East Timor.” The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 8(1):43-57. 
2007. “The tobe and tara bandu: A post-independence renaissance of forest regulation authorities and practices in Oecusse, East Timor.” In Modern Crises and Traditional Strategies: Local Ecological Knowledge in Island Southeast Asia, ed. Roy Ellen, pp. 220-237. New York: Berghahn. 
Personal interests 
Tropical fruits and spices, Asian cuisine, history of botanical exploration, hiking in forest shade, swimming, and languages.