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 Downey provides direction and leadership to Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative within the Yale School of the Environment, a center dedicated to conservation and stewardship in the American West. With a vision, she forges strategic partnerships with agencies, landowners, and NGOs to tackle critical environmental challenges. Michelle’s mission is clear: to create conservation capacity and skilled leaders by linking Yale students to applied research and projects that impact the forests, rangelands, and waterways of the West. With almost 15 years of experience as an ecologist and wildlife biologist, Michelle brings a breadth of experience in topics such as environmental monitoring, Farm Bill programming, and wildlife translocation. Her career has spanned diverse ecosystems and organizations, including non-profits, state and federal agencies, and universities across seven U.S. states. Michelle obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology, focusing on Ecology, Biodiversity, and Evolutionary Biology, from Central Connecticut State University as well as a Master of Science in Wildlife and Range Management from 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. She can be reached 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.