New Colorado State Institute Studies Critical Connections Between Society and Environmental Change

The new Institute for Society, Landscape and Ecosystem Change, directed by Colorado State University researchers Christopher Fisher and Kathleen Galvin, will provide a forum through which faculty on campus can address questions centered on the critical connections between human societies and environmental change. The new institute will focus on how people both cause and respond to environmental problems.

"Our goal is to learn from past and present success and failure stories so that we can create resilient societies and environments for the future," said Fisher, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology.

Institute scientists will work from local to global perspectives in their efforts to create solutions for pressing environmental problems, most of which are ultimately societal in origin.

"ISLEC research takes place here in Colorado, Latin America, Asia, Africa and everywhere in between," said Galvin, chair of the Department of Anthropology. "Our projects involve both the short- and long-term effects of human environmental impacts to better understand present and future problems that will result from global environmental change."

The institute will involve faculty from across campus to bring together researchers from many disciplines and combine their knowledge to address social and environmental dimensions of problems such as deforestation, climate change, urbanization, desertification and land degradation.

Scientists will use many tools drawn from the social and natural sciences including archaeology, anthropology, ecology, geology, soil science, computer modeling techniques and geographical information systems to better understand past and present land-use and land cover change and to predict future implications for both humans and ecosystems.

"Humanity is facing profound and linked social and environmental change. By anyone’s calculus, these trends form a clear danger to the well-being of our society, now and in the future," Fisher said. "It’s up to us to begin creating future solutions that will improve our ability to better respond to the anticipated and unintended outcomes of these changes."

The Institute for Society, Landscape and Ecosystem Change is hosting a workshop on agent-based modeling, bringing scientists together to discuss its value for solving complex problems. Deb Winslow, program officer from the National Science Foundation and an advocate of agency-based modeling, will be attending the discussion. Fikret Berkes, a researcher specializing in the fields of resilience and sustainability science, will visit Colorado State and present a public seminar on April 28.

For information on upcoming events, visit