Colin Thor West

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Assistant Professor

Email: ctw@email.unc.edu

Phone: (919) 966-5588

Fax:

(919) 962-1613

Office:

Alumni 409-D

Area of Interest:

My research focuses on the human ecology of global change. I am interested in the ways in which societies adapt to the twin processes of global environmental and social change. More specifically, I have explored:

How households adjust their structure and composition in response to drought and agricultural intensification.

How rural farmers and ranchers perceive climatic change and adapt to regional manifestations of global climate change.

How indigenous natural resource-based peoples develop institutions for managing local resources under conditions of increased risk and uncertainty.

Education:

PhD, The University of Arizona, 2006

Research & Activities:

Most of my work has been based on the northern Central Plateau of Burkina Faso among rural Mossi farming communities. This research explores how Mossi domestic processes of household extension and fragmentation articulate with larger processes of regional desiccation, livelihood diversification, and agricultural intensification.

I have also worked in the Southwest United States with ranching and farming communities to understand the vulnerability of their livelihood systems to drought. I was a NOAA Global and Climate Change post-doctoral Fellow in Alaska where I researched how subsistence livelihood systems of Yup’ik and Cup’ik indigenous communities are affected by climate change.

I am currently a Co-PI on and NSF Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) project with colleagues E. Lance Howe and Jim Murphy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Our project, “Salmon Harvests in Arctic Communities: Local Institutions, Risk, and Resilience,” compares how people develop local institutions for managing subsistence resources in order to cope with fluctuations in the abundance of fish and game. We will compare Yup’ik and Cup’ik institutions of western Alaska with those of indigenous Itelmen peoples in Kamchatka, Russian Federation. Part of the project involves ethnographic fieldwork with participation in subsistence activities and the other entails economic field experiments based on the ethnographic work.

Selected Publications:

West, C.T. 2013. Documenting Livelihood Trajectories in the Context of Development Interventions in Northern Burkina Faso. Journal of Political Ecology 20(1):342-360.

West, C.T. and C. Ross. 2012. Local Institutions for Subsistence Harvesting in Western Alaska: Assessing their Adaptive Role in the Context of Global Change. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 15(1):22-40

West, C. T. 2009. Domestic Transitions, Desiccation, Agricultural Intensification, and Livelihood Diversification among Rural Households on the Central Plateau, Burkina Faso. American Anthropologist 111(3): 275-288.

West, C. T. and M. Vásquez-León. 2008. Misreading the Arizona Landscape: Reframing Analyses of Environmental Degradation in Southeastern Arizona. Human Organization 67(4): 373-383.

West. C. T., C. Roncoli, and F. Ouattara. 2008. Local Perceptions and Regional Climate Trends on the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso. Land Degradation and Development 19(3): 289-304.

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