Natalia Schwien (she/they) is an herbalist, scholar, and environmental advocate.
Natalia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Study of Religion at Harvard University, where she recently completed a Master of Theological Studies degree with a focus on the intersection of ecology and spiritual practice. Her research is primarily around expanded ontologies of personhood, animism, and posthuman ethics.
She holds the position of Sustainability Specialist at Middlebury College's Franklin Environmental Center in Vermont, while concurrently serving as the Associate Director for the Harvard Divinity School Program for the Evolution of Spirituality under Dr. Dan McKanan. The aim of the program is to support the scholarly study of emerging spiritual movements, marginalized spiritualities, and the innovative edges of established religious traditions. She leads "Interspecies Dialogues: A Conversation Group Exploring Animism, Posthumanism, and Entangled Roots of Interrelation" which regularly features a variety of scholars, writers, scientists, filmmakers, and animacy practitioners. Her re-wilding initiative, “The Harvard Micro-Prairie Project,” was a recipient two years in a row of the Harvard Office of Sustainability Living Labs Grant.
Natalia has been an active member of Sacred Warrior, an herbalism and environmental education collective, since 2016. Through this organization, she has worked alongside her friend and teacher, Vanessa Chakour, leading plant walks around Brooklyn and Cambridge as well as camping retreats to the New York Wolf Conservation Center, home to over 40 critically endangered wolves, all candidates for release. She has also assisted in eco-defense work in Costa Rica and with the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland. Concurrently, she pursued a horticulture certificate at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
In spring 2019, she completed her Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation coursework and exam, before apprenticing in Vermont and Massachusetts. She has experience with squirrels, raccoons, skunks, foxes, otters, groundhogs, porcupines, bunnies, opossums, meadow voles, and beavers; she currently volunteers with Newhouse Wildlife Rescue in Chelmsford, MA.
Natalia is also pursuing a Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College/Robert Frost's Bread Loaf School of English. Her research there focuses on fantasy literature, specifically on spiritual worldbuilding and how authors designate personhood through their imagined cosmology in secondary worlds.
Before working in environmental spheres, she was a member of the inaugural artistic team for Brooklyn's National Sawdust and the founding Director for its in-home recording label, FKA Via Records. She graduated with a BFA in Film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 2013. Her work has been featured in New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, Vice, For The Wild, and more. She releases music under the moniker Ellayo. Her personal website is selkieprojects.com.