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UW’s Strauss Named to Anthropology Association's Climate Change Task Force


February 13, 2012 — University of Wyoming Associate Professor of Anthropology Sarah Strauss has been appointed to the American Anthropological Association's new nine-member Global Climate Change Task Force.

Association immediate past President Virginia R. Dominguez says the task force's primary objectives are to facilitate anthropological contributions to interdisciplinary research and to produce a guiding document to recognize anthropological contributions to global climate change-related issues.

The group will articulate new research directions, educate the public and association members on climate change issues; develop curricula for teaching about climate issues; and provide the American Anthropological Association with actions and recommendations to support and promote anthropological investigation, Dominguez says.

"Anthropology has a primary obligation to contribute to climate change research by helping people in local communities understand and communicate the potential risks associated with global environmental change in their own area," says Strauss, who has conducted research on climate change for nearly 20 years.

In 1993, she was the only anthropologist -- among a group of social scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology -- that began considering the problem of climate change from a human perspective. Her interests in weather and climate expanded the next few years, and in 2003, she co-edited "Weather, Climate, Culture," the first book to take an anthropological perspective on these emerging issues.

"Though not centered on climate change, it did address the need to engage anthropologists in the study of weather and climate from historical and comparative perspectives, at a range of spatial and temporal scales," Strauss says.

In 2006, Strauss spent a National Science Foundation-funded sabbatical year working with a group in Fribourg, Switzerland. There, she learned the basics of climate modeling and continued work to integrate socio/cultural perspectives into wider climate research projects.

Upon returning to Wyoming, she helped found an ad hoc UW committee on climate change research and education.

The committee convinced UW President Tom Buchanan to sign the President's Climate Change Commitment.

The committee convinced UW President Tom Buchanan to sign the President's Climate Change Commitment. This created a major charge for the Campus Sustainability Committee, which sponsored several public symposia directed by Strauss with climate change committee members.

Additionally, in 2008-10, Strauss was among the first UW researchers to contribute to Wyoming's newly evolving partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), during which time she collaborated on projects related to hurricane preparedness and interdisciplinary models. She has begun interviewing people in Wyoming and elsewhere regarding perceptions of wind and solar power at different scales, and hopes to travel to southern India next year to address similar issues.

Joining Strauss on the task force are Susan A. Crate of George Mason University; task force chair Shirley J. Fiske of the University of Maryland; Heather Lazrus from the National Center for Atmospheric Research; George Luber of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Lisa Lucero from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Anthony Oliver-Smith of the University of Florida; Ben S. Orlove of Columbia University; and Indiana University's Richard Wilk.

Strauss joined the UW faculty in 1997. She received a bachelor's degree in religion (1984) from Dartmouth College; a master's of public health (1987) from San Jose State University; and a doctorate in cultural anthropology (1997) at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Sarah Strauss has been appointed to the American Anthropological Association's new nine-member Global Climate Change Task Force.

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