Social Science

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 were also been the subject of research, as were trends in urban migration and “climigrants” displaced by climate change.

This research focus spurred projects in a number of fields. UAF graduate student Robin Bronen focused on building a human-rights framework for climate refugees, based around the relocation of the Bering Sea coast village of Newtok. Graduate students Jill Maynard and Becky Warren helped draft the “Regional Energy Plan for Interior Alaska," a comprehensive 58-page statement of the energy needs and goals of 42 Native villages scattered through Alaska’s Interior. Graduate student Jordan Lewis’ thesis analyzed how Alaska Native elders define successful aging.

The focus of Phase III's social science capacity-building was its three faculty hires. 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.

The social science component was augmented in 2010-12 through the addition of the “Mobilities” theme, which included all forms of movement across Alaska and the north, including the flows of agents such as humans, goods, animals, pathogens, and ideas.