Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
Zoe Nyssa

Zoe Nyssa

znyssa (at)

Zoe Nyssa is currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University. Zoe Nyssa was an Environmental Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment and is hosted by Sheila Jasanoff in the Program on Science, Technology and Society at the Kennedy School of Government from 2014-2016. Zoe’s work tracks the emergence and contemporary practices of conservation biology in order evaluate their impact globally on human and non-human life. While at Harvard, she is comparing conservation-oriented programs in the U.S., Australia, Britain, Canada, and Germany to study the disciplinary re-organizations of conventional ecological science in different institutional contexts to support new biodiversity objectives.

Arguing that these new conservation practices are remaking not just environmental knowledge and policies but materially reshaping environments themselves, Zoe’s research provides a framework for evaluating the heterogeneous and often surprising consequences of conservation interventions worldwide.

Her dissertation, Endangered Logics: Conservation Science in the American Academy, studied the development and organization of conservation biology as a distinct discipline in the U.S. from the 1980s to the present. This multi-sited, mixed-method project linked a macrosocial, institutional study of disciplinary collaborations with ethnographic engagements in the field. Combining surveys, interviews, and systematic data mining of online department and laboratory materials, a qualitative and quantitative “snapshot” of the science of conservation was constructed. This work documented how biodiversity endangerment, as new biological and political category of risky existence, has consequences that both promote and counter the aims of conservation itself, with these paradoxical effects exhibiting a consistent pattern related to how the science of conservation parses up and engages with the world.

Zoe earned her Hon. B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Toronto, an M.A. at the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. Her work has been supported by several fellowships and grants, including an Andrew W. Mellon dissertation year fellowship from the University of Chicago, a Predoctoral Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and a Student Fellowship from the University of Minnesota Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences.

Note: The above information concerns a past fellow at the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School. It does not constituent evidence of current enrollment. The information may be out of date. To update their information, past fellows should e-mail the site administrator.