Opportunities and Current Projects

Community and Natural Resources Institute

CANRI remains an important avenue for promoting interdisciplinary social science research on the environment and natural resource management. Housed in the Department of Social Work and Anthropology (SOCA), the lab provides both space and experience for graduate assistants working on faculty research projects, and it fosters relationships between sociologists and faculty in allied agricultural and natural resource science disciplines. Faculty affiliated with CANRI have extensive experience using multiple research methods to explore human dimensions of natural resource problems, and much of their work focuses on resource management challenges in the Intermountain West.

Dr. Courtney Flint

Team: Dr. Courtney Flint, Casey Trout, Leonard Henderson, and Caitlyn Rogers

The Rivers Project explores the social ecology of rivers in the Intermountain West with particular focus on the role of river-related organizations in the relationship between human and natural dimensions of river systems. There are 476 HUC 8 watersheds in the Intermountain West and so far, over 425 organizations have been identified across 11 states. We are conducting structured interviews with representatives of these organizations. One key focus is on factors influencing success of these organizations as well as obstacles with an eye to synthesizing best practices for achieving river-related objectives. We are also working with national datasets on watershed integrity and health to characterize the watersheds in which organizations focus their efforts.

Kayakers  Mural near river

Wellbeing Across Utah Cities

Team: Dr. Courtney Flint, Casey Trout, Sarah Rogers, Christina Pay, Dr. Hyojun Park, and Tim Keady

 Dr. Flint’s Utah Wellbeing Project (2018-2023) gathers perceptions of wellbeing across Utah communities and compares them with community indicators to inform local municipal leaders and their planning processes. Surveys conducted since 2019 have collected information from over 14,000 Utah residents across 35 cities. Current efforts are focusing on presenting findings from the 2021 survey to city councils and developing a dashboard of resources for city leaders to help improve various aspects of wellbeing within communities. This project is supported by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, and USU Extension.


Survey Takers  USU Students conducting surveys

                 Utah Wellbeing Survey

Dr. Jennifer Givens

Team: Dr. Jennifer Givens and Master’s student Gina McCrackin

Utilizing Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Project (UTA-01369) funding, we are comparing media coverage of climate change across contexts. Gina McCrackin, a Master’s student in Sociology, is analyzing media coverage of climate change in contexts related to Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations. This project builds upon the research of now graduated Sociology Master’s student Tyler Spradlin, whose work compares national newspaper coverage of climate change over time to local coverage of climate change in three mountain town newspapers in the Intermountain West. There are opportunities for students interested in this research to be involved.

Team: Dr. Jennifer Givens, PhD student Michael Briscoe, and other collaborators.

With funding from NSF and USDA (NSF EAR #1639458 and USDA #2017-67004-26131) we, along with an interdisciplinary and multi-university team, are studying Innovations at the Nexus of Food Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS). Our focus as social scientists is on incorporating sociological considerations and variables into the larger team analysis of food, energy, and water (FEW) resource resilience and sustainability. As part of this work we draw attention to societal drivers and social and environmental outcomes of the current FEW nexus, highlight issues related to inequality, power, and social and environmental justice, and emphasize opportunities for social change in a paper published in Frontiers in Environmental Science.

fish ladder

Columbia River

Team: Dr. Jennifer Givens and Dr. Jessica Schad

The Great Salt Lake is desiccating, and this drying and shrinking poses alarming risks to the surrounding area. Dust from the exposed lakebed contributes to poor air quality and negative human health outcomes. A shrinking lake is also harms birds and other species that depend on the lake, and it negatively affects lake related industries including tourism. We collected survey data from Utahans on their awareness of this issue and their views on the causes, consequences, and ways to address this local threat to human, animal, and environmental well-being, the costs of which could be expensive in both monetary and non-monetary ways. We are currently seeking additional funding to support further work on this important project. There are also opportunities for students interested in this research to be involved.
Great Salt Lake

Dr. Jessica Schad

Team:  Dr. Jessica Schad, PhD student Kristen Koci

As part of her Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Project (2020-2025), Dr. Schad is examining how natural resource-related economic transitions impact community identity, mental health, and suicide trends in rural Utah.  She is studying mental health and suicide trends as well as individual and community-level contributing factors in rural natural resource dependent places in Utah using quantitative and qualitative research and a variety of secondary and primary data sources.  A team of graduate and undergraduate student researchers are contributing to various aspects of the project, thus training them to conduct rigorous applied sociological research that can make a difference in rural community quality of life and policymaking.  She is working on developing partnerships with researchers, local organizations, and government entities, including USU Extension agents, throughout Utah who are also trying to understand and address these issues.

Dr. Jessica Schad, PhD studen Kristen Koci

Team:  Dr. Jessica Schad, Dr. Jennifer Givens, and undergraduate student Mitchell Beacham

With funding from a Mountain West Center for Regional Studies Small Faculty Grant, College of Humanities and Social Sciences Creative Activity and Research Enhancement Grant, and Faculty-Student Summer Mentorship Grant, Drs. Schad and Givens are working with undergraduate students to conduct a study using online panel survey data of adult residents of the state of Utah to better understand perceptions and behaviors in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study will provide information about how Utah residents’ politics, views of science, and rural residence are driving behavior and attitudes regarding COVID-19 as well as support for science-related policy recommendations.  This will include an examination of the relationship between views of climate change and COVID-19 and a follow-up survey to the one conducted in June of 2020 will be conducted in June of 2021.

Sign on fence reads: Mindfulness brings us closer

Team:  Dr. Jessica Schad, USU PhD Student Edem Avemegah, SDSU PhD Student Wei Gu 

With funding from a variety of sources including USDA-NIFA, the South Dakota Nutrient Research and Education Council, and the AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) program, Dr. Schad’s research examines the social factors which drive conservation attitudes and behaviors among agricultural producers. She studies how sense of place, land tenure, and social networks, for example, relate to soil and water conservation practice adoption and persistence among different types of agricultural producers and landowners.  Current projects include an examination of how rangeland producers in South Dakota make decisions about usage of parasiticides, what residents (including producers) of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed view as a thriving agricultural system, and how South Dakota producers’ sense of place and responsibility are related to their likelihood to adopt conservation practices and maintain them over time.  Dr. Schad is also developing projects to examine similar questions with interdisciplinary teams in the Intermountain West.



Dr. Mehmet Soyer

I and my students have been working on several projects focused on public opinions surrounding the impacts of Oil/Gas Development and land management issues. I and Dr. Jessica Schad have been working on a project conducting in-depth interviews and Qualtrics survey with the stakeholders (residents and community leaders) in Ute Tribe reservation to examine the public perceptions of the impacts of oil and gas development. This area in the Uintah and Duchesne counties of the Uintah Basin is the most significant oil and natural gas producing in the state of Utah. From the residents’ point of view, we have been exploring community/sense of place, current impacts on the community, and communication with city officials or industry. Also, my research team and I have been scrutinizing the community leaders’ opinion on a tour of events on oil & gas development in the reservation, and their concerns and problem-solving. While much research has been conducted in non-tribal communities on the impacts of fracking and energy development, little has been done in tribal communities despite high levels of oil and gas development.  
Jessica Schad, Kristen Koci,

The research team conduct Qualtrics survey to understand Cache County residents' perception of local air quality and relation to health concerns. Also, the research team conduct a qualitative in-debt interview examining the parental perceptions of the effect air quality has on their asthmatic children in Cache County Utah. We will collect this data via in-depth interviews with these parents which will be transcribed and coded. Upon analyzing the data, we will also evaluate the parents` understanding of the impact of air quality and analyze culture attitudes toward pollution. We will use action research approach to find possible problems and seek potential solutions regarding the understanding of the relationship between poor patient-related outcomes of asthmatic children and air pollution as well as explore any associated sociological implications.

Cows in a field

Dr. Julia Clark

This five-year project uses archaeological, geospatial, ethnographic, and archival data to investigate the relationship between water and culture in the Mountain West. With funds from the Bureau of Reclamation, current research focuses on Northern Utah with plans to work in the southeastern portion of the state.

This project evaluates the adaptive success of political isolation or political interaction strategies in ancient eastern Honduras. Using remote sensing data and other tools of digital heritage, this project is unifying new and legacy archaeological data from Honduras, especially in regions at risk of destruction from deforestation and development projects. 

Using techniques from geochemistry and mineralogy, this project examines how urban landscapes and political power form and change over time. Ceramic and spatial data are derived from nearly ten years of research at Angamuco, an ancestral Purepecha urban landscape in Michoacan, Mexico.

Dr. Roslynn McCann

This five-year project uses archaeological, geospatial, ethnographic, and archival data to investigate the relationship between water and culture in the Mountain West. With funds from the Bureau of Reclamation, current research focuses on Northern Utah with plans to work in the southeastern portion of the state.

This project evaluates the adaptive success of political isolation or political interaction strategies in ancient eastern Honduras. Using remote sensing data and other tools of digital heritage, this project is unifying new and legacy archaeological data from Honduras, especially in regions at risk of destruction from deforestation and development projects. 

Using techniques from geochemistry and mineralogy, this project examines how urban landscapes and political power form and change over time. Ceramic and spatial data are derived from nearly ten years of research at Angamuco, an ancestral Purepecha urban landscape in Michoacan, Mexico.

Dr. Anna Cohen

This five-year project uses archaeological, geospatial, ethnographic, and archival data to investigate the relationship between water and culture in the Mountain West. With funds from the Bureau of Reclamation, current research focuses on Northern Utah with plans to work in the southeastern portion of the state.

This project evaluates the adaptive success of political isolation or political interaction strategies in ancient eastern Honduras. Using remote sensing data and other tools of digital heritage, this project is unifying new and legacy archaeological data from Honduras, especially in regions at risk of destruction from deforestation and development projects. 

Using techniques from geochemistry and mineralogy, this project examines how urban landscapes and political power form and change over time. Ceramic and spatial data are derived from nearly ten years of research at Angamuco, an ancestral Purepecha urban landscape in Michoacan, Mexico.