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Karen Holmberg

Research Scientist and Co-Director of the Gallatin WetLab
712 - 1 Wash Pl

Office Hours
Tuesday By Appt: 3:00-5:00
Wednesday By Appt: 10:00-12:00

B.A., Anthropology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1995
M.A., Anthropology, Columbia University, 1999
M.Phil., Anthropology, Columbia University, 2001
Ph.D., Anthropology, Columbia University, 2009

Karen Holmberg is an archaeologist who specializes in volcanic contexts to examine the long-term experiences humans have had with environments that change unpredictably. She is interested in how the past can aid understanding of the environmental challenges and crises of the 21st century, particularly in the Global South. Holmberg received her PhD from Columbia University after which she taught at Brown and Stanford Universities. Her doctoral work was funded by Fulbright, Mellon, and Wenner-Gren awards. She is the recipient of awards including a Creating Earth Futures award from the Geohumanities Centre of Royal Holloway University and the Leverhulme Trust, Make Our Planet Great Again award to collaborate with the Laboratoire de Gèographie Physique at the Panthèon-Sorbonne in Paris, and the This is Not a Drill award through the NYU-Tisch Future Imagination Fund that utilizes public pedagogy to address the intractable social problems of the climate emergency through technology, the arts, and critical thinking. Some recent science outreach activities include an appearance as a volcano expert on a new Disney+ game show for children that teaches science and critical thinking skills, The Big Fib; an immersive art-science piece, Double-Sided Immersion, at ZKM gallery in Karlsruhe, Germany as part of the 'Critical Zones' exhibition (May 2020-January 2022) curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel; and co-directorship of the New York Virtual Volcano Observatory on Governors Island as Earth science outreach. She is the scientific director of the Gallatin WetLab, an experimental initiative for public-facing teaching and a living art-science laboratory. Holmberg currently directs interdisciplinary field projects examining past environmental changes and future volcanic risks on coastlines in Patagonia (Chaitèn, Chile) and near Naples, Italy (Campi Flegrei); closer to home, she researches the radically transforming past and future coastlines of New York City.

Teaching and Research Interests

environmental change  volcanism  archaeology  human-environment intersections  disaster  the sublime  rock art  art-science collaboration 

Recent News

Karen Holmberg was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Chaiten Museum in Patagonia opening March 2020 integrating her archeological data and commemoration of the 2008 Chaiten Volcano eruption, as well as art created during therapy sessions with
residents forced to evacuate due to the eruption. The museum will also showcase virtual and augmented reality from her field projects’ photogrammetry data and live streaming volcanological data from the crater.

Holmberg was an invited Ambassador of the March for Science in February 2020.

Karen Holmberg’s article, “Inside the Anthropocene Volcano,” was featured in the volume, Critical Zones: The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, x-x, October 6, 2020) Karen Holmberg contributed the chapter, “Risky Business and the Future of the Past: Nuclear Power in the Ring of Fire,” to the volume, Going Forward by Looking Back, edited by Felix Reide and Payson Sheets, (Berghahn Books, x-x, September 2020)