Raised by German parents, I grew up in ‘hog town’: the City of Toronto in southern Ontario—the multi-cultural and industrial heartland of Canada. Since then, I’ve been working at various universities in different cities around the world, but home always beckons.
After spending two years at the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group (FNP), Wageningen University, The Netherlands, in July 2014, I started as an ARC Future Fellow at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Australia. The School of Geography is a leading hub for critical studies in conservation and development in the Asia-Pacific, with critical scholars in political ecology (Simon Batterbury, Adam Bumpus, and Priya Rangan), resilience and climate change adaptation (Jon Barnett), risk and uncertainty (Brian Cook), environmental knowledge and governance (Lisa Palmer), and ‘new’ cultural ecologies (Lesley Head).
My own research involves the scalar politics of conservation and development that encompass environmental governance, agrarian change, rural livelihoods, and ethnic relations in insular and mainland Southeast Asia. My current work broadly examines the political ecology of local social responses and livelihood adjustments emerging at the conjuncture of changing environmental governance, resource extractivism (mining, plantations, etc), and agrarian political economies in the frontiers of the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos. I have researched similar topics in the Canadian Western Arctic, Eastern Caribbean and Southern Africa.
My education is varied, interdisciplinary:
I hold a PhD (2005, Dean’s Honours) in Geography from McGill University. The title of my dissertation is:
Dressler, W. 2005. Old Thoughts in New Ideas: State Conservation Measures and Tagbanua Resource Use at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan Island, Philippines, PhD Dissertation, McGill University.
At McGill, I studied under Thomas Meredith, Sarah Turner, Oliver Coomes, and Christian Kull. Supervised by Fikret Berkes, I completed my Masters in Natural Resources Management at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Geography, Anthropology and Environmental Studies at York University, Canada.
Before and during this academic spree I worked and volunteered for various environmental organizations—from Greenpeace to Pollution Probe—days when incisive opinion mattered more than ‘Ordnung und Bureaucratie’.