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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Salmon Harvests in Arctic Communities: Local Institutions, Risk, and Resilience

Status Current
Seeking Researchers Yes
Start Date 09/01/2007
End Date 06/30/2011
Funding Source National Science Foundation Human and Social Dynamics Program (award #0729063)
Funding Amount 743,677
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM
Keywords economics, anthropology, experimental economics


  James Murphy, Lance Howe

Student Researchers
  Chris Kolerok, Cristina Gaina, Uyuriukaraq Ulran


Survival in many rural locales around the world depends upon the availability of subsistence resources. The local institutions-i.e., rules and norms-that facilitate effective use of these resources are subject to unprecedented challenges. This project will study the ability of these local institutions to withstand rapid environmental and social change. Because these changes are particularly acute in the Arctic, this research will study the effects in two salmon-dependent regions on opposite sides of the Bering Sea with sharp distinctions in social, political, economic histories (Southwestern Alaska and the Russian Far East), but similar ethnic background (Yup'ik). The interdisciplinary team consists of two economists and an anthropologist who will conduct field research in two related phases. In the first phase, ethnographic methods will be used to document local institutions within the Kuskokwim region of Alaska and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia. The second phase will use the tools of experimental economics to test how these institutions perform, particularly how they adapt to greater risk and uncertainty. In doing so, this project will provide a better understanding of the resilience of Arctic resource systems to increased uncertainty and shocks. Global climate change is already having dramatic impacts on communities in our two study regions as well as the Arctic as a whole. Describing and documenting the role of local institutions in enhancing resilience can inform policy options that are applicable to other Arctic social-ecological systems undergoing similar rapid and extreme changes.

In addition to providing broader understanding of the ability of communities that depend upon subsistence hunting and gathering to adapt to change, this research will also provide benefits to the communities participating in the research in a number of ways. This project provides meaningful opportunities for undergraduate participation, particularly indigenous students from the communities participating. Student research projects will be designed jointly with tribal councils. By providing training to local students, this project will help improve education and develop the human capital in these regions. The investigators will collaborate closely with village leaders in all communities to maximize the relevance of the study the challenges these people face. Alaska Native people from the Kuskokwim have also substantively contributed to developing the research objectives. Village leaders in both countries have already stated that their involvement could provide their people a greater voice in affecting regional policies regarding subsistence harvests. To help facilitate this, after the research is completed, the research team will return to the communities to report their findings.

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