Faculty Biography

Morgan Ruelle

Morgan Ruelle, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Phone: (508) 793-7172
Email: mruelle@clarku.edu


B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, 2001
M.S. in Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2011
Ph.D. in Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2015

Research interests

Indigenous ecological knowledge, human ecology, biocultural diversity, participatory action research, ethnobotany, food systems, agroecology, climate adaptation, plant phenology


Morgan Ruelle is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy program in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment. He is interested in how biological and cultural diversity enable communities to anticipate and adapt to change. His work focuses on how the diversity within food systems provides options for communities to respond to climate change. He integrates Indigenous and other place-based ecological knowledge with a broad array of scientific tools. He strives to include communities in every stage of the research cycle to co-generate knowledge that is locally relevant and broadly meaningful.

Since 2007, Dr. Ruelle has worked with Elders in the Standing Rock Nation of the Northern Great Plains to increase availability and access to plants used in their traditional foodways. His current work in Standing Rock focuses on ecological calendars, knowledge systems that measure and makes sense of time based on close observation of the ecosystem. His work combines Indigenous knowledge with phenological data to identify reliable seasonal indicators that could help communities synchronize their food systems with an increasingly variable climate.

In Ethiopia, Dr. Ruelle conducts research and training for the Legume Diversity Project, a collaboration with five Ethiopian universities aimed at understanding the status and significance of Ethiopia’s food legumes. Dr. Ruelle teaches Ethiopian graduate students to conduct surveys of legume species and varieties, using digital data collection tools to document farmers’ knowledge across multiple agroecological and sociocultural contexts. In his own field work, he investigates how rapid expansion of road networks and access to regional markets shape farmers’ use of legumes, and how agricultural development policies could sustain Ethiopia’s agrobiodiversity as a source of adaptive capacity for climate change.

Dr. Ruelle’s research has been supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship in Food Systems and Poverty Reduction, the Toward Sustainability Foundation, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program.

Select Publications

Ruelle, M. Kassam, K-A. and Zemede Asfaw. 2018. “Human ecology of sacred space: Church forests in the highlands of northwestern Ethiopia.” Environmental Conservation 45 (3): 291–300.

Kassam, K-A., Ruelle, M., Samimi, C., Trabucco, A. and J. Xu. 2018. “Anticipating climatic variability: The potential of ecological calendars.” Human Ecology 46(2): 249-257.

Ruelle, M. 2017. “Ecological relations and Indigenous food sovereignty in Standing Rock.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 41(3): 113-125.

Kassam, K-A., Avery, L. and M. Ruelle. 2017. “The cognitive relevance of Indigenous and rural: Why is it critical to survival?” Cultural Studies of Science Education 12 (1): 97-118.

Ruelle, M. and K-A. Kassam. 2013. “Foodways transmission in the Standing Rock Nation.” Food and Foodways 21 (4): 315-339.

Ruelle, M. Morreale, S. and K-A. Kassam. 2011. “Practicing food sovereignty: Spatial analysis of an emergent food system for the Standing Rock Nation” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 2 (1): 163-179.

Ruelle, M. and K-A. Kassam. 2011. “Diversity of plant knowledge as an adaptive asset: A case study with Standing Rock Elders.” Economic Botany 65 (3): 295-307


Environmental Science & Policy: Introductory Case Studies
Science Meets Policy in the Real World