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.

The Utah People and Environment Poll (UPEP)

We gather Utahns' perspectives on environmental issues important to the state to inform decision-making for a thriving future


In spring of 2023, we started the Utah People and Environment Poll, or UPEP, to track Utahns' perceptions on environmental issues of importance to the state.  3,750 residents from across the state will be randomly selected to participate in the mail and online survey.  This is the start of an effort to create a mechanism for gathering timely, relevant, and longitudinal data on issues at the intersection of people and the environment in Utah to help inform policy to address environmental issues. Please check back in the early summer for our preliminary results and information about future efforts

USU logo | College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Fell Logo
Made by Fell (Jorrien & Tiera Peterson) https://www.madebyfell.com/ 

Dr. Jessica Schad
CANRI Director, Associate Professor of Sociology
Email: jessica.schad@usu.edu

Dr. Jennifer Givens
Associate Professor of Sociology
Email: jennifer.givens@usu.edu

Learn more about UPEP
upep logo with an image of a mountain next to it


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 a Utah Agricultural Experiment Station Project (UAES; 2020-2025) and through support of a UAES seed grant, Dr. Schad and PhD candidate Kristin Koci are examining how different types of natural resource dependency (extractive and non-extractive) impact rural communities in Utah with a focus on wellbeing and mental health.  Along with secondary data from a variety of sources, they are using data from Dr. Flint’s Utah Wellbeing Project (https://www.usu.edu/utah-wellbeing-project/), interviews with USU Extension agents working in rural areas across the state, and case studies with in-depth interviews in two rural Utah communities to better understand these interrelated issues. A team 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.  They are 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.

View of Ski Lift and Downtown Park City, Utah     
View of Theater in Downtown Price, Utah
View of Ski Lift and Downtown Park City, Utah                 View of Theater in Downtown Price, Utah

Team: Dr. Jessica Schad, USU PhD Student Edem Avemegah, USU PhD Student Zubair Barkat

  • With funding from a variety of sources including USDA-NIFA and NRCS-CIG, Dr. Schad’s research in this area 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 funded projects include:

Sustainable Grazing Institute in Kaysville, June 2022     Farm Tour in Maryland, July 2022
Sustainable Grazing Institute in Kaysville, June 2022             Farm Tour in Maryland, July 2022

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

Northern Mongolia Adventure and Discovery in Science is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that seeks to use scientific inquiry to explore the natural and cultural resources of northern Mongolia through research and conservation efforts. We work with local and international stakeholders, professionals, students, life-long-learners, volunteers, and tourists to produce high quality, data driven research and teach professional field research skills.

Dr. Roslynn McCann

Facilitating talking circles and co-creating and Indigenous climate change curriculum in southeastern Utah as a partnership with the Nature Conservancy’s Native American Tribes Upholding Restoration and Ecosystems (NATURE) program.

Learn more about Dr. McCann's projects here: Sustainability | Extension | USU

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.