The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received a $3.2 million federal grant for a doctoral program combining subjects such as biology and geology with history and sociology.
“We can’t think about the environment without thinking about how people are being affected and how people are affecting it,” Gary Kofinas, the director of UAF’s Resilience and Adaptation Program, said. “Economic, cultural and ecological dimensions of sustainability have to be considered together.”
Todd Brinkman, a student with the department of biology and wildlife, is studying the relationship between deer populations, hunters and loggers. Nathan Coutsoubos, also a biologist, is studying how the relationship between humans and arctic shorebirds are changing in response to a new landfill in Barrow. Students in the program are also looking at the social, economic and legal aspects of moving a community facing coastal storms and erosion.
The Resilience and Adaptation Program received the grant from the National Science Foundation. There are 44 students enrolled currently and the grant will fund about 25 more over the next five years.
The grant is also intended to bring more Alaska Native students into the program.
“We believe that sustainability is a really natural topic for Alaska Natives to be addressing as Ph.D. students,” Kofinas said.
“The important questions for society are not found deep within conventional scientific disciplines, but at the intersection of those disciplines,” he said. “We’re training a new generation of scholars in how to work holistically, to inform better decisions about Alaska’s future.”
— Associated Press
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