Faculty by Research Specialization

The Department of History at UC Santa Cruz is known for its innovative research and exemplary scholarship. Our faculty work at the cutting edge of their respective fields, covering a wide variety of geographic, temporal, and thematic fields of study. The areas of specialization listed here are by no means an exhaustive list of our scholastic interests. Rather, they highlight the diverse and often overlapping ideas and approaches we explore within our teaching and research.

Maya K. Peterson
  • Title
    • Associate Professor
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History Department
  • Affiliations Environmental Studies Department
  • Phone
    831-459-4915 (office), 831-459-2555 (message)
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Stevenson College Academic Building, 216
  • Office Hours Spring 2021: On Zoom (email for appointment)
  • Mail Stop Stevenson Academic Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Environmental History, History, Water, Colonialism, European Studies, History of Science, Russia, Soviet and Post Soviet Studies, Environmental Studies, Asian Studies
  • Courses HIS 152 Trade and Travel on the Silk Roads, HIS 152C Islam in Eurasia, HIS 173B Imperial Russia, HIS 173C The Soviet Union, HIS 177 Environment in the 19th Century, HIS 196F Environment and Empire, HIS 196O The Russian Revolution, HIS 196V The Soviet Experience, HIS 202 Practicing World History, HIS 251A Readings in Modern European History: Environment and Technology

Summary of Expertise

Russian History
European History of the 19th and 20th centuries
Environmental History
Central Asia

Research Interests

Imperial Russian and Soviet history
Comparative empire/colonialism
Central Asian history
Environmental History
History of science, technology, and medicine

Biography, Education and Training

Ph.D. in History, Harvard University, 2011
A.M. in Regional Studies: Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, Harvard University, 2005
B.A. with High Honors in History (major), Russian (minor), and German Studies (concentration), Swarthmore College, 2002

Honors, Awards and Grants

  • UCSC COR Faculty Research Grant, 2020-21
  • Summer Research Laboratory Associate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2020-21
  • UCSC Digital Instruction Project Fellow, 2018-2019
  • Visiting Researcher, Eberhard-Karls-University, Tübingen, Germany, Fall 2018
  • UCHRI Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop award, 2017
  • UCSC IHR Faculty Fellowship, 2016
  • Carson Center Fellowship, 2012-13 (Rachel Carson Center, LMU, Munich, Germany)
  • College Fellowship, 2011-12 (Dept. of the History of Science, Harvard University)
  • Social Science Research Council Eurasia Dissertation Support Fellowship, 2010-11
  • American Society for Environmental History Travel Grant, 2009
  • Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, 2008-09
  • Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship, 2008-09
  • Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, 2007
  • Merle Fainsod Prize, 2005-06; 2003-04 (Harvard University)
  • Roger Martin Travel and Research Grant, 2005-06 (Harvard University)
  • Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (Russian), 2004-05; 2003-04
  • Abby and George O'Neill Graduate Research Travel Grant, 2004 (Harvard University)
  • Fulbright IIE Fellowship, 2002-03 (Berlin, Germany)  
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 2002                                                                                

Selected Publications

Pipe Dreams: Water and Empire in Central Asia's Aral Sea Basin (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019). Finalist for the Central Eurasian Studies Society's Book Prize in History and the Humanities.


"US to USSR: American Experts, Irrigation, and Cotton in Soviet Central Asia, 1929-32," Environmental History 21, 3 (2016): 442-466.


"Engineering Empire: Russian and Foreign Hydraulic Experts in Central Asia, 1887-1917." Cahiers du Monde Russe, Special Issue: “Land, soil and people. Agricultural expertise and power (19th-20th centuries),” 57, 1 (January-March 2016): 125-146.


Selected Presentations

"Pipe Dreams: Water and Empire in Central Asia's Aral Sea Basin," a book talk in the Central Asia Working Group webinar series, UC Berkeley, February 4, 2021

Selected Recordings

Hear me talk about the disappearing Aral Sea on the Constant Wonder podcast (Nov. 2020).


A conversation about water in Russian and Soviet history with Sean Guillory and Christopher Ward for the University of Pittsburgh's SRB Podcast (aired February 5, 2021)



Teaching Interests

Russian and Soviet history
Environmental History
History of Science and Technology
History of the Silk Roads
Comparative empire/colonialisms