Biography

I’m the McClatchy Chair in Communications and Founding Faculty in Cognitive Science at UC Merced. In 2004, I signed on with the newest University of California campus to take the lead in planning what eventually became our Cognitive and Information Sciences program. Before doing post-doctoral research at Stanford University, I started my PhD training at UC San Diego and finished at UC Santa Cruz.

A cognitive scientist and linguist by training, I’m interested in how people use and understand language. Some of my research examines how the content of political campaign messages affects voters. Other work investigates how metaphors are interpreted “in the wild”, for instance, in natural discourse about technology, math, or politics, or how grammatical form influences reasoning about past events. Some of my work also looks at how people use gestures in natural discourse.

Professional duties include serving as Associate Editor for Cognitive Linguistics and serving on the editorial boards of Metaphor & Symbol as well as Environmental Communication. I am a member of on the Cognitive Science Society governing board and a standing member of NIH’s Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM). I am Director of the Center for Climate Communication.

I’m the former Vice Chair of the American Indian Council of Mariposa County, and was raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California.