Associate Professor Adrian Howkins recently published The Polar Regions: An Environmental History with the Wiley publishing group. He explained that his book has been fifteen years in the making and that it took a crooked path to publication.
Howkins, a native of England, attended the University of Texas for his graduate work in the hopes of examining the relationship between Argentina, Chile, and Britain. As he started his research, Howkins realized that no scholar had studied the Antarctic Peninsula. He approached his advisor with his idea of writing a history of Antarctica, and was met with a cool response. Howkins pressed on and, during a time when climate change was becoming an important topic of discussion, a study of Antarctica gained interest outside of the historical profession. As he completed his dissertation, Howkins learned that he would have to broaden his approach and incorporate international and environmental perspectives.
As his research gained momentum, Howkins knew that he would have to visit Antarctica. He has now made five visits to the frozen continent, twice to McMurdo Station and three times to the Antarctic Peninsula. Howkins notes that fewer than 2,000 people live in Antarctica in the winter (no surprise there) but perhaps 20,000 tourists visit the Antarctic Peninsula in any given year. Most of them are adventure tourists who hope to visit all seven continents (as a side note, Howkins has traveled to all the continents). Howkins has come to realize that the study of Antarctica shows that History has an important role to play in scientific research and political decisions for the continent.
Howkins is planning to write another book in a series that studies biomes, so he has expanded his research to include Alaska, Greenland, and Scandinavia. He also has secured a NSF grant to construct a historical photo archive of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. Graduate student Poppie Gullet will be assisting Howkins in the project and should be able to visit Antarctica as part of the project. Howkins also teaches an online class about the history of Antarctica and will be an instructor for Semester at Sea during fall 2016 semester.