December 7, 2016

Faculty and Staff

Faculty Director

Justin Farrell, PhD  | Justin Farrell is a professor and author at Yale University. His research focuses on cultural sociology and environmental politics, with an emphasis on epistemology and moral theory, social conflict, and elites. He blends ethnographic fieldwork with large-scale computational techniques from network science and machine learning. His scholarly work has been published by Science, Princeton University Press, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Climate Change, the American Sociological ReviewEnvironmental Research LettersSocial Problems, and funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation. His books and articles have won national scholarly awards, and he regularly presents to policymakers, including the U.S. Senate, the United Nations, the Vatican, and in major media outlets such as the New York Times, The EconomistNew York Review of BooksLA TimesNPRWashington Post, HBO, and the Financial Times. Justin is a proud first-generation college grad and Wyoming native.

Program Staff

Michelle Downey, MS – Program Director | Michelle provides direction and leadership to support UHPSI’s philosophy and mission, which includes collaborating with state, federal, and non-governmental partners to address critical conservation issues affecting the people and agencies of the West. In this role, Michelle connects students to applied research and management projects with partners in western states and provides mentorship to facilitate student knowledge and skills in natural resource management of forests and rangelands on public and private lands. Michelle also expands the UHPSI influence by developing new partnerships across the West and the Yale School of the Environment. Prior to her arrival at UHPSI, Michelle worked for about 10 years in the West as a rangeland and wildlife ecologist addressing a variety issues such as wildlife translocation, Farm Bill programing, and environmental monitoring. Michelle’s prior work in wildlife research and conservation afforded her the opportunity to work in 7 states across a diversity of ecosystems, wildlife species, and organizations. She obtained her B.S. in Biology with a focus in Ecology, Biodiversity, and Evolutionary Biology at Central Connecticut State University and a M.S in Range and Wildlife Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. In her free time, Michelle can be found hiking, camping, running, and spending time with family; and her dog Penny joins for all of these. Please email at

In Memoriam: Founder & Advisor

raymond_pRaymond Plank – Entrepreneur, Visionary, and Skeet Shooter | UHPSI is the brainchild of Raymond Plank, Apache Corporation Founder and Chairman Emeritus. Through his life in the West, Raymond established a very personal connection to the landscape around him. This connection has manifested itself in many ways over the years, most notably in the acquisition of the Ucross Ranch, development of the Ucross Foundation and its artist residency program on the Ranch, and innovative Ranch management. The Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative is the newest manifestation of Raymond’s interest in, and affinity for the West, made possible only through his high-level vision and philanthropy.