My graduate research centered on the evolution of cooperation, social learning, culture and the origins of technology through the study of non-human primates. My PhD dissertation (Duke University, 2004) was on orangutan (Pongo abelii) social behavior in the Sumatran rainforests, and the question of orangutan cultures. I had previously studied bonobos (Pan paniscus) at the Language Research Center and in a rainforest in Congo (Zaire).
In 2005-2006, I was involved in the replication project for the Digital Bridge Academy at Cabrillo College, developing the pilot version of the instructor training materials for what would become the Academy for College Excellence FELI program. In this work, I learned more about experiential and team-based education and the experience of at-risk students in community colleges. I also worked occasionally as an eco-literacy consultant with Emergent Systems.
From 2006-2013, I taught Anthropology courses at Cabrillo College (including “Surviving the Future: The (Re)Emergence of Sustainable Cultures”), where I earned the John D. Hurd Award for Teaching Excellence. I was the faculty advisor for the Cabrillo Sustainability Council (student club), an active member of the Cabrillo College Climate Initiative Task Force, and supported students in activities and independent studies related to campus sustainability and social justice.
In 2014, I began a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, working on issues of sustainability and pedagogy, including education for sustainable development, emphasizing higher education in Southeast Asia. I am the main organizer for a community of practice on Education for Sustainability in Asia, and lead editor on the book Education and Sustainability: Paradigms, Policies and Practices in Asia (Routledge, Singapore; ISBN: 978-1-138-68141-5).
Blogging and other interests
My most recent project is developing the web presence of the Novasutras movement, including the website, social media, and videos. I’ve managed several other blogs, including one for my teaching (Michelle Merrill’s Cabrillo Anthropology Classes), another for Cabrillo College’s sustainability initiatives (original was deleted, but some remains at Cabrillo GreenSteps), and one for my writing and things related to science fiction (The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill).
My goal with this blog is to write about things that interest me as a thinker and scholar (and yes, that sounds pretentious, but I think I’ve earned it at this point). These fall under the larger headings of ‘culture change’ and ‘living systems,’ with an over-arching focus on sustainability (and some occasional forays into general nerd-dom).
It’s true, I am a nerd. Dyed-in-the-wool, knows a D20 from a Dyson Sphere, nerd. Huge fan of Joss Whedon (can recite many Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly episodes chapter and verse) and Babylon 5, still happy to buy comic books or play MMORPGs, was in a Rocky Horror Picture Show cast for years, love to browse NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, attend CONTACT conferences, and wish I had more time to read speculative fiction novels. Actually, also writing a speculative fiction novel, or more like two, in all that free time I imagine I must have in some alternate reality.
If any of these things are also interesting to you, welcome! Let’s talk… (connect with me). If not… well… diversity is the soul of resilience, so to each her own.
Lead Editor, Education and Sustainability: Paradigms, Policies and Practices in Asia (Routledge, Singapore; ISBN 9781138681415)
latest publication: Connecting Competences and Pedagogical Approaches for Sustainable Development in Higher Education Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1889; doi:10.3390/su9101889