Rachel Brummel developed an interest in the environment when she was a child. She grew up within minutes of Decorah and was immersed in the beauty of the Driftless Region, as well as the people and communities embedded in northeast Iowa's working landscapes.
"I was fortunate to develop a respect for the environment with a childhood full of spending time on the Mississippi River, hiking scenic trails, and doing plenty of mushroom hunting (a state park was minutes from my house)," she says, "We also took family vacations to other parts of the country to see other spectacular environments."
In elementary school, Brummel attended the Environmental College for Kids at Luther for several years which was an important part of her early environmental education and development of an urgency and ethic for conservation. This past summer, the experience came full circle when she sent her four-year old daughter to her first Luther-organized Discovery Camps, the new version of Environmental College for Kids.
Brummel's experience with the environment continued to broaden when she started college. She decided to major in biology and spent a summer in Minnesota's Boundary Waters and a semester studying in Costa Rica. "These experiences pushed me to think more about human and policy questions like How can we support local livelihoods while also conserving the environment? How can we use policies to promote and encourage conservation? How might communities be included in the conservation of their own environments?" she says. "In graduate school, I decided to focus specifically on these questions, which still guide me, my teaching, and my work today."
Brummel is curious about how we use governmental policies to respond to new and emerging environmental issues. "In particular, I'm interested in the ways that policies might respond to transboundary environmental problems. These are issues that don't pay attention to political, environmental, and social boundaries," she says. "So among other things, I've spent time in both the U.S. and Australia examining bushfire management and in Minnesota examining responses to invasive Asian carp migrating up the Mississippi River."
She's also working with a student to examine policies that are attempting to address the decline of insect pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, in the U.S. She and her student are reviewing the proposed policies and will interview landowners who have decided to focus on pollinator conservation on their properties.
After she received her PhD., Brummel worked as a postdoctoral researcher and instructor at the University of Minnesota. "There I gained additional experience with teaching, supervising undergraduate students in research, and advising students," she says. "I also taught in the environmental studies program at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn. It was a great place to teach and do research, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to come to Luther and to live in a place I truly love."
Brummel feels that Luther lets her engage with people at a pivotal time in their lives. "Liberal arts colleges provide an opportunity for people to ask big questions, immerse themselves in a community of learners, and take the risk of encountering the world in new ways," she says. "I benefited from excellent faculty mentors when I was a student at a liberal arts institution, and I wanted to be a part of providing that experience for others."
I love exploring and spending time outside with my husband and kids. My husband is a professional beekeeper, so sometimes our family hops in the truck to ride along to bee yards he has scattered in some of the prettiest places in Northeast Iowa.
Nothing is better than having a student tell you—even if it is years later—that one of my classes changed them or affected how they want live in the world.