My research focuses on the relationships between technology use, social organization, and environmental concern. I am interested in how technologies interact with social systems to shape individual perceptions and social practices, and how groups that adopt alternative technologies may relate differently to social structures, the natural environment, and forms of community identity and organization. In the broadest sense, my research interests are centered on the ways in which technologies can be used to enhance self-sufficiency and community resiliency while promoting environmental sustainability. Some of my current and past research projects include:


P1010500This research, originally part of my dissertation research and funded by an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (EPA-STAR) fellowship, examines the motivations for residential solar technology adoption and the experiences living with solar technology systems by interviewing homeowners in Wisconsin and Colorado. This project began as part of my dissertation research, which examines the relationship between alternative technology adoption, environmental attitudes, and daily practice.

In collaboration with colleagues and students, my interests in solar technology adoption and policy have recently moved into other social sectors, including the use of microgrid technology for military security. See, for example, this paper with Emily Prehoda and Joshua Pearce from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. This work has been shared widely in multiple news media outlets; see here.

For more, see:

Schelly, C. (2015). What’s Political about Solar Electric Technology? The User’s Perspective. Engaging Science, Technology & Society 1: 25-46.

Schelly, C. (2015). Frameworks for Understanding and Promoting Solar Energy Technology Development. Resources 4, 55-69.

Schelly, C. (2014). Implementing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in a Two State Comparison. Energy Policy 67, 543-551.

Schelly, C. (2014). Residential Solar Electricity Adoption: What Motivates, and What Matters? A Case Study of Early Adopters. Energy Research and Social Science 2, 183-191.

Schelly, C., and Price, J. (2014). Utilizing GIS to Examine the Relationship Between State Renewable Portfolio Standards and the Adoption of Renewable Energy Technologies. International Journal of Geo-Information 3(1): 1-17.

Schelly, C. (2014). Transitioning to Renewable Sources of Electricity: Motivations, Policy, and Potential. Pages 62-72 in Controversies in Science and Technology, Volume 4. Edited by Daniel Lee Kleinman, Karen Cloud-Hansen, and Jo Handelsman. New York: Oxford University Press.


I have a wide range of interests in energy technology, energy use, and energy policy, and how all of these relate to environmental sustainability, community wellbeing, and social relations of power. I have worked with past mentors and continue to work with current students on tackling these related issues. A couple examples of this include:

Banerjee, Aparajita, Chelsea L. Schelly, and Kathleen E. Halvorsen. (2017). Understanding public perceptions of wood-based electricity production in Wisconsin, United States: place-based dynamics and Social Representations. Environmental Sociology. Online first, available online.

Kreuze, A. Schelly, C, and Norman, E.S. (2016). To Frack or not to Frack: Perceptions of the Risks and Opportunities of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States. Energy Research and Social Sciences 20: 45-54

Schelly, C. (2016). Unconventional oil and gas: Influence of politics and proximity on perceptions. Nature Energy. Invited News & Views contribution. October 6: 1-2.

Alatout, S. & Schelly, C. (2010). Bioterritorial ‘power’: the U.S. electric grid as a technology of government. Radical History Review 107, 127-138.


With colleagues and collaborators at Michigan Tech and several other US and international institutions, I am beginning a new research project looking at household energy consumption across the nexus of food, energy, and water resources. This is part of a large, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project that was recently funded by NSF-INFEWS, titled “Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation.” This project will be ongoing for the next 5 years – we’ve got a lot to learn! You can learn more here and here!


Theories of social practices are one way of understanding how consumption patterns are shaped by social context, suggesting that social practices can be the analytical unit of analysis for understanding the challenges and possibilities for changing habits of consumption. Some of my recent work contributes to this emerging body of scholarship. See, for example:

 Schelly, C. and Banerjee, A. (2016). Revisiting Soft Energy Paths: Politics and Practice in Energy Technology Transitions. Challenges 7, 16, doi:10.3390/challe7020016

Schelly, C. (2016) Understanding Energy Practices: A Case for Qualitative Research. Society & Natural Resources 29(6): 744-749.

Schelly, C. (2016). Everyday Household Practice in Alternative Residential Dwellings: The Non-Environmental Motivations for Environmental Behavior. Pages 265-280 in The Greening of Everyday Life: Challenging Practices, Imagining Possibilities. Edited by John Meyer and Jens Kersten. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schelly, C. (2016). How Policy Frameworks Shape Environmental Practice: Three Cases of Alternative Dwelling. Pages 185-203 in Putting Sustainability into Practice: Advances and Applications of Social Practice Theories, edited by Emily Huddart Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen, and Naomi Krogman. Cheltanham, UK: Edward Elgar.


Much of my current interest is in alternative communities, places in America where people are already living with alternative forms of technological organization to provide electricity, water, heat, food, transportation, and myriad other supports for residential life. In current research, I am examining intentional communities in America as social worlds in which alternative technology use intersects with social organization and practices. This research draws upon my experiences as a participant-observer to understand how individuals choose to participate in these communities and what this participation means to them in terms of technology adoption, individual action and practice, and their relationship to structures of power, the natural world, and community identity. Some of this research was conducted as part of my dissertation research, while some of the case studies have been conducted more recently. These alternative communities are described in some of my published articles and book chapters, and are also the subject of my book, Dwelling in Resistance: Living with Alternative Technologies in America, published by Rutgers University Press.



At Michigan Tech, one of my collaborations focuses on open-source 3-D printing technologies and their potential as socially transformative tools for reorganizing production and material provisioning. Working with Dr. Joshua Pearce and his research group, I am interested in the social implications of distributive manufacturing. This research currently focuses on the potential and application of 3-D printing technologies in educational settings.  You can read about the work on 3D printing and my perspective on 3-D printing technologies here:

Schelly, C., Anzalone, G., Wijnen, B., and Pearce, J. (2015). Open-Source 3-D Printing Technologies for Empowered and Transformative Education: Bringing Additive Manufacturing to the Classroom. Journal of Visual Languages and Computing. 28 226-237.

See also: This story was originally published by MTU and was picked up by multiple websites. I was also interviewed by the Dutch paper Weekendavisen about the social implications of 3-D printing.


Rainbow Gatherings are a temporary ritual experience that take place in National Forests across America. Based on participant-observation, my book explores the annual National Rainbow Gathering as both material and cultural ritual. The work examines how the material systems of a Rainbow Gathering (which are free, participatory, and based on the principles of leave-no-trace camping) interact with and reinforce the cultural and symbolic experiences of those who gather, and what this unique social world can teach us about the relationship between technological systems, cultural systems, and bodily practice.

Schelly, C. 2014. Crafting Collectivity: American Rainbow Gatherings and Alternative Forms of Community. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.  This book was reprinted by Routledge in 2016. The book is available from the Publishers and from Amazon.


While completing my master’s degree, I was involved in a research project examining energy conservation and organizational culture within one public school district. Poudre School District, located in Fort Collins, CO, asked researchers from Colorado State University to examine why one of the high schools in the district was able to decrease its electricity consumption by 50% over just a few years in order to find a model that could be utilized in other schools throughout the district. This research involved conducting focus groups and interviews in two public high schools to understand the relationship between school culture, environmental education, and energy conservation.

To read more about this project, see:

Schelly, C., Cross, J.E., Franzen, W.S., Hall, P., & Reeve, S. (2012). How to Go Green: Creating a Conservation Culture in a Public High School through Education, Modeling, and Communication. Journal of Environmental Education. 43(3), 143-161.

Schelly, C., Cross, J.E., Franzen, W.S., Hall, P., & Reeve, S. (2011). Reducing energy consumption and creating a conservation culture in organizations: A case study of one public school district. Environment and Behavior. 43(3), 316-343.

This project in the news:


During my master’s program, I worked with Dr. Sammy Zahran on a project to map, model and attempt to explain residential solar technology adoption in America. Using data on solar thermal technology adoption (the only residential solar technology data collected by the U.S. Census), we mapped adoption by county and looked at how both structural and value-related factors correspond to and help predict solar technology use. To read more about this project, see:

Schelly, C. (2010). Testing residential solar thermal adoption. Environment and Behavior. 42(2), 151-170.

Zahran, S., Brody, S.D., Vedlitz, A., Lacy, M.G., & Schelly, C. (2008). Greening energy: Explaining the geographic distribution of household solar use in the United States. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), 419-434.


My MA thesis explored two means of promoting environmental sustainability through renewable energy adoption and sustainable energy practices within the Colorado utilities industry. The first, a 2004 ballot initiative, approved the first renewable energy standard (RPS) to be passed by direct vote. The second, a form of citizen mobilization, is emerging within one of the three types of Colorado electric utilities. This study explores both in detail and then compares them in order to explore the relationship between democracy and the promotion of environmental sustainability.