‘Farmgirl scientist’ travels world, publishes book on environmental challenges

Written by UND Professor Rebecca J. Romsdahl, latest book from The Digital Press at UND seeks to inspire wonder about the natural world

Rebecca Romsdahl, professor of earth system science and policy. Image courtesy of the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the girl.

A new book published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, Mindful Wandering: Nature and Global Travel through the Eyes of a Farmgirl Scientist by Rebecca J. Romsdahl, takes the reader from a Minnesota farm to England, Morocco, Peru and beyond.

Part travelogue, part book of essays and part scientific manifesto, Romsdahl’s book blends her experiences of growing up on a farm, studying and teaching environmental policy, and traveling extensively as both a professional and a tourist. The resulting book is a guide to the environmental challenges we face as a global community – and a call for readers to do better.

“Traveling to new places has opened my mind to see environmental problems and solution ideas, like sustainability and resilience, from different perspectives,” Romsdahl said. “I want to share those and inspire people to explore our beautiful planet more thoughtfully.”

As a translational ecologist, Romsdahl is trained to ask critical questions about how we can improve our human relationships with the natural world for a sustainable, resilient future. As a Minnesota farmgirl, she learned how to observe nature and life through the changing seasons.

Mindful Wandering combines Romsdahl’s encounters not only with wildlife and landscapes, but also with people. These encounters prompted her to both ask new questions and seek new answers.

“I am constantly wrestling with the psychology concept ‘cognitive dissonance,’ or as I adapt it, ‘environmental guilt.’“ Romsdahl said. “How can I get past feeling like I am just part of the problem, so that instead I can help contribute to solutions?

“I’m also constantly thinking about how different cultures value the natural environment. What environmental problems are people in different places facing, and what can we learn (or share) about how they are trying to solve them?”

The beauty of glaciers in Alaska, the quirky splendor of the denizens of the Galapagos island, the radiant landscapes of the Moroccan desert, and the cozy fellowship of an English pub provide just a few of the backdrops that frame Romsdahl’s reflections and entice the reader to think differently.

She implores us, through the eyes of a farmgirl scientist, to ask soul-searching questions: How do we reconnect with the local, seasonal rhythms of life, while learning how to care about the whole Earth as our home?

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, PhD, is a translational ecologist, educator, writer, and professor in the Department of Earth System Science & Policy at UND. Her research and teaching examine links between social, ecological, and policy factors when scientists, stakeholders, and decision makers work together to solve environmental problems.

Mindful Wandering is published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. It’s available as a free download or as a low-cost paperback from Amazon.com.

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, PhD, is a translational ecologist, educator, writer, and professor in the Department of Earth System Science & Policy at the University of North Dakota. Her research and teaching examine links between social, ecological, and policy factors when scientists, stakeholders, and decision makers work together to solve environmental problems.

“A compelling and refreshingly authentic collection of essays. Mindful Wandering faithfully charts the author’s career as a global traveler and offers intimate insights into culture, geography, identity, and worldview.” Sheila Liming, Champlain College, Author of Office (2020).

“This easy-reading sustainability travelogue is a gentle manifesto that will transport readers around the world. Romsdahl uses her Midwestern farmgirl scientist lens to understand landscapes and connect the local with the global.” Amahia Mallea, Drake University, environmental historian and author of A River in the City of Fountains (2018).

Author Contact Rebecca J. Romsdahl: rebecca.romsdahl@und.edu

Publisher Contact: william.caraher@und.edu

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