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Headshot of Peyton Smalls

Graduate Student

Advisor: Dr. Caela O'Connell

About Peyton

I am an environmental anthropologist born in Charleston, SC apart of the Gullah/Geechee nation. In December of 2023, I completed a B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of South Carolina where I was able to take a very interdisciplinary approach to environmental problems and concerns through diverse coursework. My goal is to equip myself to become a change agent for environmental justice issues for marginalized communities on various topics such as DEI, conservation, and climate change.

Research Interests

Environmental anthropology, race, American Southeast, community participation, social movements

Research Background

My undergraduate research focused on geoscience education and the impacts of diversity on students' ideologies when implemented in coursework which intensified my interest for the social aspect of environmental issues. This interest and enjoyment of working with people led me to pursuing environmental anthropology in my graduate studies. I am interested in examining if there are existing correlations between socioeconomic status and community participatory environmental conservation efforts, as well as examining other demographic and ideological questions that can aid in assessing attitudes toward community conservation efforts. My methodologies will utilize practice theory as an essential framework.


MA, Cornell University, 2022; BA, Koç University, 2019


"Smalls, P., Ryker, K., 2023. Students Ability to Relate to Scientists: Impacts of Geoscientist Spotlights. Poster presentation at Earth Educators’ Rendezvous, Pasadena, CA, July 2023.
Smalls, P., Ryker, K., 2022. Geoscientist Spotlights Positively Impact Views of the Types of People Who “Do Science,” But Reflection Is Critical. Oral presentation at Geological Society of America Connects, Denver, CO, October 2022.
Smalls, P., Khan, J., 2022. Educational Gaps in Marginalized Youth Due to Institutionalized Racism. Oral presentation at Baylor Ronald E. McNair Symposium, Waco, TX, August 2022.
Smalls, P., Ryker, K., 2022. The Influence of Geoscientist Spotlights on the Perceived Identities of Scientists. Poster presentation at Earth Educators’ Rendezvous, Minneapolis, MN, May 2022.
Smalls, P., Ryker, K., Barnes, J., 2022. The Impacts of Learning About Scientists on the Type of People Who “Do Science”. Poster presentation at Discover UofSC, Columbia, SC, April 2022."