Welcome to the Cairns Lab!

In the Cairns Lab, our research centers on humans and the environment. As environmental anthropologists, we examine critical issues at the nexus of water, waste, infrastructure, and sustainability. Because environmental problems are so complex, we believe they are best solved in interdisciplinary, collaborative teams. We work with biologists, engineers, and other scientists all over the world to conduct engaged research, both at our field sites and in Dallas.

In our lab, we understand that there are no self-made scientists. We all rely on learning from others, whether in class or through mentorship, and it is integral that we share our knowledge when we have it and learn constantly. Rigorous training in methods, theory, technology, and process is the cornerstone of our lab’s approach to research. We enthusiastically dive into the work of generating knowledge, prioritizing the attention, effort, and ethical commitments that are central to excellent research. The productivity and success of the large-scale research initiatives we design and complete is the direct result of our commitment to robust, ethnographically-informed methodologies.

Innovation takes boldness and creativity. Therefore, we take an inclusive perspective towards research and mentorship, striving to make science and research accessible to students by reducing barriers to participation, addressing misconceptions about who scientists really are, providing support to young researchers, fostering a lab environment where it is safe to innovate, and celebrating each other’s strengths. Science is not just about generating knowledge; it is also about character, gratitude, and perseverance. Together, we can set out to solve problems that everyone says can’t be solved, doing research that matters to people and changes the world.

In the Cairns Lab, we pay attention to emergent and pressing social issues, taking the time to do work on diversity, COVID-19, and other critical topics which require scientific minds.  The education and knowledge that we have is not a secret and is meant to be shared with the public. We share our research and knowledge not only through peer-reviewed academic journals and invited talks, but also through collaborating with community partners and government agencies, holding intensive research workshops, participating in citizen science projects, hosting public conversations on social media platforms, and forwarding policy-based components of our work.

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