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Alaska graduate program in sustainability receives $3.2 million award

FAIRBANKS, Alaska Graduate students and scientists of the Resilience and Adaptation Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks received a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to address questions of social-ecological resilience, adaptation and sustainability.

RAP focuses on answering questions of how global processes, like climate change, affect local processes, such as indigenous subsistence hunting. Economic, cultural and ecological dimensions of sustainability have to be considered together. To do that requires an integrated science that draws on several disciplinary perspectives, said Gary Kofinas, RAP director and UAF associate professor of resource policy and management.

RAP is a graduate program that uses an innovative team-taught curriculum, hands-on internships and problem-centered training. Students from traditional disciplines such as economics, anthropology, political science and biology address issues of global-local sustainability in an integrated and interdisciplinary fashion.

Sustainability means that society has to think carefully about how the choices it makes now will affect the worlds ability to retain the characteristics society wants to hold onto, said Kofinas. Student projects have included green consumerism, arctic militarization, carbon sequestration, cancer and persistent waste, co-management of marine mammals, and the road ecology of caribou.

The grant is RAPs second from NSF and will support 25 two-year traineeships for participating PhD students. This dedicated time allows students to focus on their research, work with their advisors, secure research dollars to finish their projects, and complete their dissertation, said Kofinas.

RAP, which is funded through the Institute of Arctic Biology, is one of more than 120 NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships in the United States, and regarding as one of the most successful programs. On Oct. 11-13, RAP will host graduate students and faculty from 27 other interdisciplinary programs to share experiences with sustainability science at the first Conference for Sustainability IGERTs.

The important questions for society are not found deep within conventional scientific disciplines, but at the intersection of those disciplines, Kofinas said. Were training a new generation of scholars in how to work holistically, to inform better decisions about Alaskas future.


Contact: Marie Gilbert
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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