Idaho - University of Alaska System

University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
Living on Earth NSF EPCOR - Alaska
Social-Ecological Systems Workshop 2009
Sandra Lee Panel, PhD, AICP
Assistant Professor Conservation Social Sciences and Bioregional Planning
The University of Idaho and SES
Interdisciplinary environmental and social research are strong and a growing foci of research,
teaching and applied outreach at the University of Idaho (UI) and its branch campuses. SES
is supported by National Science Foundation grants, by federal and international agency
contracts and cooperative agreements, and by the University itself through two new highprofile interdisciplinary initiatives (funded by UI from 2005-2010) – Waters in the West and
the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative (Bioregional Planning MS Program
included). These programs engage multiple colleges within UI: Natural Resources;
Agriculture and Life Sciences; Science; Law; Art and Architecture; Engineering; and Letters,
Arts, and Social Sciences. A recently commissioned study of graduate research at UI noted
the University’s particular strengths in the social science of conservation and natural resource
management as exemplified by the Conservation Social Science Department where graduate
students work across the college to link social science with studies of protected areas, fish
and wildlife, and forest and range. Department faculty bring backgrounds in recreation,
communications, political science, anthropology, urban and regional planning, and other
disciplines to research partnerships. The University of Idaho has and is developing a number
of SES initiatives in collaboration with neighboring universities, tribal governments and
colleges, and states.
Current Research
The Idaho effort is underpinned by Water Resources in a Changing Climate: Idaho’s
National Science Foundation Research Infrastructure Improvement Project funded from
2008 to 2013, 2008. The program is to build a unifying statewide infrastructure to support
research and fill gaps that currently hinder Idaho’s and the nation’s ability to address vital
issues of sustainability. It targets ecosystem health, including understanding the effects of
climate change on water resources and the impact of these effects on ecological, human, and
economic systems. The program involves the University of Idaho, Boise State University,
and Idaho State University and is guided by Idaho’s EPSCoR Committee (reporting directly
to the Office of the Governor). Recent hires in geography at the university include faculty
who are establishing fully-engaged external collaborations, enhance learning and expertise
for the study of managed and unmanaged river systems, and help communities plan to
address climate change impacts. In addition to the University collaborations, the Native
American STEM Center for Graduate Education and Research is under creation through a
compact with several Indian community colleges and other universities.
IGERT research
In 2009, the University of Idaho was renewed for a five-year IGERT grant from the National
Science Foundation. The project involves two universities and more than 30 researchers plus
doctoral students from fields as diverse as anthropology, wildlife biology, rangeland
management, agriculture, forestry, and urban and regional planning to address five major
ecological and social research questions. IGERT aims to to understand and manage the
interacting social and ecological systems in each of six regions (three in Idaho and three in
Costa Rica) for resilience that preserves ecological function and processes. The UI program
uses a system dynamics perspective that integrates spatial aspects of social, economic, and
biophysical processes, interactions, and feedbacks affecting landscape change, what
approaches can be identified for managing to conserve ecosystem services, preserve
biological diversity, and ensure sustainable production in each region.
Developing Research Areas for Funding
 LTAP (USDA) proposal of 2009, presents the concept for a CSREES Sustainable
Agroecosystems Science Long-Term Agroecosystem Project (SAS-LTAP) focused on the
dryland cereal l-based production systems in the Inland Pacific Northwest (IPNW). The
proposed IPNW LTAP responds to the CSREES program to support coordinated long-term
studies focusing on agricultural soil carbon in US production systems and will be part of a
network of SAS-LTA Projects that includes diverse and important production systems in the
Waters in the West and Bioregional Planning and Community Design were funded from
2006 through 2011 by the university in order to develop these interdisciplinary programs. For
the latter, interdisciplinary teams are building Learning Practice Collaboratives for teaching
research and community capacity building for decision making that spans scales from very
local to watershed areas and bioregions that are either urbanizing or losing economic
viability. We are studying issues like land use planning, cultural conflicts over land use
decisions, public/private lands interface, and regional scenario building. We are in the early
phase of developing funding opportunities. Both programs are internally funded for start-up
until 2011.
Heart of the Rocky Mountains is a proposal for research with the Universities of Montana
and Wyoming, UI is organizing a research coordination network for the Heart of the Rockies
region using 19 field research sites, including the NEON site, US Forest Service
Experimental Forests, USGS field stations and National Park science centers and linked to
other national informatics centers. The project spans several benchmark ecosystems from the
high rockies to the Salmon River and Yellowstone-Teton area. The proposal focuses on
several key research themes including: influences of climate warming on ecosystem
processes; trend analysis of social and ecosystem vital signs (e.g., pollution, biodiversity,
household income); food webs; influences of rapid exurban expansion in wildlife migration
corridors; identification and valuation of ecosystem goods and services; and toxic loading
and environmental health.
ULTRA – National Science Foundation is a proposal under development for July.
The University of Idaho and Washington State University are forming an interdisciplinary
research partnership to develop a long-term human-environment study of the urbanizing
environment centered on the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene corridor and are applying for a twoyear ULTRA planning grant from the National Science Foundation. Stakeholders, including
local and tribal governments, will help develop research questions to predict and understand
consequences, improve decisions, and sustain/restore the region, which has a high rate of
growth that depends on the amenities and environmental qualities at risk.
More in-depth descriptions of these projects are available upon request.