EPSCoR social science research in Phase III centered on Alaska’s rural communities and their responses to climatic and social change, with a focus on food systems, cultural institutions and social networks. Urban social-ecological systems have also been the subject of research, as have trends in urban migration and “climigrants” displaced by climate change.
This research focus has spurred projects in a number of fields. One highlight was the work of UAF graduate student Robin Bronen, who focused on building a human-rights framework for climate refugees, based around the relocation of the Bering Sea coast village of Newtok. Another accomplishment was the drafting of the “Regional Energy Plan for Interior Alaska” by EPSCoR graduate students Jill Maynard and Becky Warren. The plan is a comprehensive 58-page statement of the energy needs and goals of 42 Native villages scattered through Alaska’s Interior. Another social science-supported project that garnered attention was UAF graduate student Jordan Lewis’ thesis analyzing how Alaska Native elders define successful aging.
The focus of Phase III's social science capacity-building was its three faculty hires, one each at UAS, UAA and UAF. Erica Hill was hired as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UAS in 2007. She was followed in 2009 by Shannon Donovan, hired as Assistant Professor in the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at UAA, and by Chanda Meek (a former EPSCoR graduate fellow), hired as an Assistant Professor with UAF’s Political Science Department. Hill has focused on zooarcheology. Donovan has developed projects related to public values and environmental issues, and undertaken an interdisciplinary study of predator management in Alaska. Meek has been active in developing both a research program on international polar bear conservation, and an institutional analysis of mechanisms for stakeholder engagement in Alaskan North Slope oil and gas regulations.
The social science component was augmented in 2010-12 through the addition of the “Mobilities” theme, which includes all forms of movement across Alaska and the north, including the flows of agents such as humans, goods, animals, pathogens, and ideas.