Featured Faculty, Dr. Lucero Radonic

Dr. Radonic in the desert

Dr. Lucero Radonic, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, joined the department in 2014. Her research centers around the human/environment interaction within urban landscapes. More specifically, the human governance of changing landscapes, the ways nature is transformed for human use and how we make decisions about the distribution of natural resources within dynamic, urban environments.

morning in the Sonora Desert Arizona
Early morning in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, United States

In Arizona, where she grew up, water has always fascinated her and was ever present in conversations. Her fondness for the desert environment lead her to pursue her BS in environmental sciences in 2005 from the University of Texas El Paso. It was during her early studies that Lucero quickly discovered that while she enjoyed spending time outside in the forest and the mountains, she had other questions about the role of humans in those beautiful (or destroyed) environments. There was little room for the exploration of these issues within the realm of environmental sciences. During a research fellowship in Hawaii, she got to hike the forest daily on a military site and collect seed samples. As beautiful as the landscape was, the constant avoidance of undetonated missiles and feral pigs led her back to the lab each day and the realization that there was little room for questioning or explaining the human angle within all this work. The lab work did not allow her the freedom to answer some of her own questions such as, what are the stories of these seeds, nor did it allow her to speak to people and find out why these seeds were important to them.

Given her interest in the role of humans within the environment during her undergraduate tenure, Dr. Radonic began taking anthropology classes where she discovered the book, Pigs for the Ancestors by Rappaport. After reading it, she was amazed and fascinated by the ways it dealt with themes of population growth, animal husbandry, ritual, and warfare. All of these topics were interwoven in such a fluid way that it made her want to read more anthropology. These issues began to make her question the politics of the environment and helped her decide she wanted to approach human/environmental interactions from the human perspective rather than the environmental one. Issues like these led her to pursue anthropology for her graduate education. She received her PhD from the University of Arizona in 2014.

Currently, Dr. Radonic has several projects she is working on but her larger one examines green infrastructure in cities – man made infrastructure that tries to emulate natural flows.  She is interested in how people’s relationship to nature in cities changes through urbanization. In Arizona, for example, policy makers and residents are reconceptualizing what rainwater is, especially as her home state confronts prolonged drought and all states continue to battle over water rights. Until recently in Arizona, rainwater was a problem to be controlled so it did not cause chaos through flooding; now, it has become a resource. The conceptualization of rainwater has switched from it being a contaminated nuisance that must be removed to it now being considered a renewable resource that should be harnessed and collected. People are changing both their conceptualization of what water resources are as well as how we are governing them when confronted by climate change and urban expansion. This shift in the mindset of urban governance fascinates her and offers possibilities for collaboration with cities. This is where Dr. Radonic hopes her research will have an impact. Her research with this new project has the potential to make actual change in urban policies and impact people’s lives.

two women in the central market in Hermosillo Sonora Mexico
Lucero catching up in the central market, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

Dr. Radonic finds this a fascinating change from previous projects, also centered around water rights and water access, involving indigenous water rights in Mexico where her work had little hope of impacting people. Primarily because it is hard to have an impact when the people you work with are not able to help make the decisions about water infrastructure. One of her goals as an anthropology professor is to learn (and then teach others) how to communicate better with people outside out the field and with the public so that anthropology can have a broader impact. Lucero finds the most potential power in these issues lies in collaborative projects where people are part of both the decision-making process and implementation.

Lucero’s favorite aspect of her job is getting to be outside and interacting with people, both of which she enjoys immensely. Her previous research dealt with water rights and political activism, topics that often-had people concerned and hesitant to speak about the issues she was involved with. In her current research on water management and concepts of water, people are excited, wanting to talk about news ways to utilize and conserve water. The ability to switch her research focus to how we are conceptualizing and managing water from the political confrontations over water rights allows her to deal with places of hope, excitement, and possibility, instead of places of despair and hesitance — she enjoys this immensely. Here at MSU, one of the things she likes most about our department is enjoying happy hour with her colleagues. She particularly appreciates the fluidity in conversation between the various subfields of our discipline and feels that the current faculty strive to make sure we all converse about ways our research relates to each other so that no feels excluded. Dr. Radonic enjoys her colleagues and loves her job here at MSU.

Tagua Reserve Chile
Dr. Lucero Radonic taking it all in; Tagua Tagua Reserve, Los Lagos Region, Chile

When not researching, writing or teaching, Lucero enjoys hiking, biking, and just generally loves being outdoors as much as possible. Cross country skiing is a new activity she has been exploring, although coming from a desert environment, the cold is something she struggles to enjoy. Anything that takes her outdoors and involves elevational changes is at the top of her list so she truly enjoys exploring Michigan. Photography is also something she readily appreciates, and she finds no shortage of subject material along the River Trail here on campus. She is currently rereading Jim Harrison’s True North, a book by a native Michigander from Grayling, describing his love for his home state’s environment. Dr. Radonic says it helps her understand how people can love the cold as much as she loves the heat, one of the reasons she enjoys reading fiction and historical nonfiction. Look for her upcoming publications in Economic Anthropology and Water Alternatives, which should be out by January.

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