Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Marcus Weaver-Hightower


This dissertation examines the social and environmental impacts of fracking through deep ethnographic interviews and observations with farmers and ranchers living and leasing on the Bakken and Three Forks shale oil formations of western North Dakota, currently the second largest oil-producing region in the United States. This study investigates how photographic methods such as photo elicitation, repeat photography, and aerial photographs/maps elicit local knowledge and testify to the resilience of ranchers and farmers challenged by oil development and the alteration of their environment. Motivated by heritage, political marginalization and the pervasive loss of ruralness, the participants express several roles, among them watchdog, conservationist and educator. The findings—largely photographic with the participants’ own narrative—generate interdisciplinary discussions of photography in social research, provide the conceptual foundation for curricula that is more inclusive of the needs of rural communities visited by the oil and gas industry and may contribute to research in other parts of fracking country. Keywords: aerial photographs, art-based research, Bakken, conservation photography, documentary, energy development, environmental education, environmental justice, fracking, hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas, petroleum, photo elicitation, photography, repeat photography, rural education, science education, sustainability, visual research.