Jay Turner

Professor of Environmental Studies

Researcher on the recent history of U.S. environmental politics and policy, including climate change, the clean energy transition, and public lands management.

I have taught in the Environmental Studies Program at Wellesley College since the fall of 2006. My training is in environmental history and environmental studies. I have also been active in sustainability initiatives at Wellesley and nearby communities, especially those pertaining to energy and climate change.

My most recent book, Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future, unpacks the history of batteries to explore why solving the battery problem is crucial to a clean energy transition. Used for powering zero-emission vehicles, storing electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and modernizing the electric grid, batteries are essential to scaling up the renewable energy resources that help address global warming. But given the unique environmental impact of batteries—including mining, disposal, and more—does a clean energy transition risk trading one set of problems for another? With new insight on questions of justice and sustainability, Charged draws on the past for crucial lessons that will help us build a clean energy future, from the ground up.

My previous books include The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump, co-authored with Drew Isenberg, and The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964. These books explore the changing landscape of U.S. environmental politics, considering the historical evolution of conservation opposition to environmental reform and changes in debates over public lands protection. In connection with The Republican Reversal, I developed an extensive teaching website with my students on conservatives and the environment.

My teaching at Wellesley includes a range of courses in the Environmental Studies Department. I teach an introductory course focused on issues and concepts important to environmental studies which is organized around climate change. I teach 200-level courses such as U.S. Environmental History and another course on The Future of Energy. I regularly teach two 300-level seminars: My U.S. Environmental Politics seminar examines the laws, stakeholders, and political and policy processes important to the federal environmental regulatory state through a series of contemporary case studies. My other 300-level seminar is a capstone course on public writing, during which students spend the semester reporting on environmental beats of their choosing. Their public writing can be seen here.

At Wellesley, I've enjoyed working with students on research projects pertaining to public lands politics, public attention to climate change, and the role of batteries in a clean energy transition. In 2017-2018, my students and I supported Solarize Natick, a community-solar initiative that resulted in more than 150 new rooftop solar installations in Natick, Massachusetts.

I received a B.S. from Washington and Lee University in 1995, an A.M. in American Civilization from Brown University in 1996, a Ph.D. in History (History of Science) from Princeton University in 2004, and a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton in 2005. My research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  • B.S., Washington and Lee University
  • A.M., Brown University
  • Ph.D., Princeton University