Ashton Wesner

Research Fellow

Visiting Faculty, Department of History
University of California, Berkeley
CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, Office for the History of Science and Technology, CSTMS
Affiliation period: January 2019 -
Degrees PhD Society & Environment :: University of California, Berkeley (2019)
BA Environmental Analysis: Race, Class, & Gender :: Pomona College (2011)

Ashton Wesner is the 2019-20 Research Fellow at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. In addition to this position, she is also Lecturer of Science & Technology Studies/History of Science in the Department of History her at UC Berkeley. Wesner’s research and writing intersect the fields of feminist science & technology studies, critical environmental history, political ecology, Indigenous and settler colonial studies, and cultural geography. She combines frameworks and methods from these fields to examine articulations of nature, culture, and power to better understand how ongoing US settler colonialism and imperial expansion structure both bioscientific knowledge production and environmentalist practices. As a teacher—in classes like “Engineering, Society, and Environment,” “Biology, Ecology, and the Making of US Imperialism,” and “Environments, Animals, and Militarism”—Wesner builds on a foundation of feminist pedagogy and commitment to social justice oriented learning in and beyond the university.

Her current project, Routing the Scenic: technologies of occupation and environmental culture in the Columbia River Gorge, examines the historical legacy and quotidian production of US settler colonial violence through scientific practices. Routing the Scenic historicizes the contested 1986 passage of the bi-state environmental governance plan—the National Scenic Area Act (NSAA)—within the context of Indigenous dispossession throughout the Columbia River Basin from the early 1830s to present. Scenery, Wesner shows, has been operationalized in imperial expansion through the Gorge and has shaped the calculation of how colonial conservation unfolds. Wesner argues that settler colonialist visions of the Gorge, from railroad brochures, to sonar surveys, to drone footage, constitute progressive environmental politics and planning initiatives and continue to dispossess Columbia River Treaty Tribes. Based on over fourteen months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, my analyses shed light on the layered, but often mundane, infrastructures of violence in river basins while also foregrounding the possibilities for anti-colonial spatial practices.

While teaching and in residence at Berkeley, Wesner is continuing to develop her second research program: This one is primarily ethnographic and heavily participatory, wherein she examines the production of queer ecologies with a lab of arachnologists (the Elias Lab, here at UC Berkeley). Wesner collaborates with scientists in the Lab to analyze how their own disciplinary investment in gender dimorphism and biological sex difference is upheld (or upended) by the messy materialities emergent in their study of jumping spider mate-choice. Based on this research her next book will ask: How do practicing biologists uphold and upend heteropatriarchal understandings of sex, gender, and violence in their quotidian study of non-human animals? How might animal behavior sciences offer openings for feminist analytics of bodily and environmental health and harm?

Wesner earned her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in Society & Environment. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies: Race, Class, and Gender from Pomona College. ​Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, UC Berkeley Fellowship for Graduate Study, Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Race and Gender, Social Science Matrix and Tanada Endowed Fellowship in Entomology. She is the lead researcher of the Queer Ecologies | Feminist Biologies collaborative and an active member of the Left Coast Political Ecology Network.


Research Interests

• Feminist evolutionary biology/behavioral ecology

• US settler colonialism in the Pacific Northwest

• Militarized landscapes

• Visuality and visual technologies

• Environmental(ist) politics and discourse


See other publications on her website,

last updated: October 8th, 2019