Julie Courtwright

U.S. Environmental History & the American West


Office:627 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA


My research focuses on the Great Plains of North America. I am currently at work on a history of wind in that region, which is the second part of a projected trilogy on fire, wind, and water. I am interested in an environmental history of the Plains that moves beyond the traditional framework of dust, drought, and declension. The first book in the trilogy is Prairie Fire: A Great Plains History, published by the University Press of Kansas in 2011. Prairie Fire won the Kansas Notable Book Award, given by the State Library, and was a Caroline Bancroft Honor Book Selection, designated by the Denver Public Library, Western History Division.

In addition to my work on wind, I have also begun research on Great Plains water, and recently published "On the Edge of the Possible: Artificial Rainmaking and the Extension of Hope on the Great Plains," in Agricultural History (Fall, 2015), which won the Vernon Carstensen Memorial Award, given by the Agricultural History Society for the Article of the Year. Beyond my trilogy, I am working on a long term project on the idea of "nothingness" on the plains and prairies, titled Plain Country, as well as a history of tall tales from the region. Finally, to (temporarily) move off the intellectual Plains, I am planning an environmental history of dogs to assuage the other great obsession in my life.