I grew up in Brantford, Ontario, Canada - a city of approximately 80,000 located adjacent to Six Nations (Canada's largest Aboriginal reserve) and an hour southwest of Toronto. My youth was occupied by family camping trips, sports, travel and outdoor pursuits. A formative experience of my youth was a trip to Costa Rica with the Environmental Youth Alliance to study tropical deforestation; this trip had a large impact on who I am today. By the time I "grew up", geography and development studies seemed like a natural fit for me. Consequently, I gained an undergraduate degree in International Development and Geography from the University of Guelph in 1996.
The main highlight from this degree was a semester abroad in Central America. During my third year, I spent four months teaching English and studying sustainable agriculture, deforestation, and indigenous land rights in Honduras. After my graduation and a summer of tree planting in northern British Columbia, I took some time off to backpack around South America before pursuing my Master's degree.
My Master's degree was also from the University of Guelph. At this point, my research took a topical shift to focus on environmental policy implementation in rural China. Although deviating from my core interests in Latin America, a funded opportunity to do research in China was too good to miss. After this degree, I took another year off to work as an environmental planner, but quickly learned that this wasn't the path for me.
In 2000, I began my PhD at the University of Toronto. During my doctoral studies, I made a conscious decision to focus primarily on social and cultural concerns because I believe that many environmental issues, particularly in the global south, will be difficult to overcome unless we first grapple with human poverty. Thus, my PhD research focused on rural indigenous women and children who migrate to beg on the streets of Quito and Guayaquil (Book). For this research, I spent 18 months living in the Ecuadorian Andes.
I finished my PhD in the summer of 2005. In September 2005, I moved to Scotland to become an Urban Studies Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow. After two and a half years in the lovely, but rainy, city of Glasgow, I moved to sunny San Diego to become an Assistant Professor of Geography at San Diego State University, USA. In San Diego, I continue to do research with indigenous Ecuadorians, although I have shifted my focus to New York City, where many now reside. I also work with unaccompanied minors, or children and youth who have been detained crossing the US/Mexico border without papers.
As far as my personal interests go, I'm an avid racquet sports enthusiast (however, these days I spend more time chasing after my son than I do chasing after a ball!). I also continue to love the outdoors, and camp and hike whenever I can.