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Shauna BurnSilver

Shauna BurnSilver
Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
Assistant Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Arizona State University
PO Box 872402
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402

Dr. BurnSilver is an environmental anthropologist who studies how global climate and economic changes are transforming relationships between modern pastoral and hunter/fisher communities and the environments they depend on. At the core of her research is an examination of processes by which households and communities respond to these changes and associated effects on livelihoods, well-being and ecosystems. She frames theoretical questions from within Environmental Anthropology, but takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine dynamics of change, vulnerability and resilience at the scale of households and communities within social-ecological systems. Her work combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies, leveraging the strengths of ethnography and quantitative survey research and incorporating unique insights gained from social network analysis, traditional ecological knowledge, collaborative science, and social-ecological modeling to understand patterns of change - and their implications for people. She is interested in emergent definitions of "progress" and "well-being" in the midst of changes. How do different groups describe their relationships to Nature and landscapes? Do these cultural understandings shape livelihood decisions in the short and long terms, and if so - how?

Dr. BurnSilver works in the Alaskan Arctic with modern Iñupiaq and Gwich'in hunters/fishers and in East and West Africa, with Maasai (Kenya) and Tuareg (Mali) pastoralists. The responses of arctic hunters/fishers and savanna pastoral households to change are compelling to study and compare because while they represent iconic examples of groups who possess a highly-cohesive set of cultural and ecological adaptations to cope with extreme environments, people now face new sources of risk and uncertainty, such as climate change, market integration, and property rights transformations. Do traditional coping strategies, social structures and ideas about living on the land disappear under new sources of risk? Results of prior research indicate otherwise. Households diversify, mixed economies emerge, and social relationships of sharing and cooperation endure and change. Strong collaborations with local stakeholders and communities, who are also engaged with questions of well-being and sustainable livelihoods grounds my ongoing research activities.

PhD, Human Ecology, Colorado State University, 2007

MS, Resource Interpretation, Colorado State University, 1997

BA, International Relations, Scripps College, 1987

Journal Articles


Reid, R. S., D. Nikedianye, M. Y. Said, D. Kaelo, M. Neselle, O. Makui, L. Onetu, S. Kiruswa, N. Ole Kamuaro, P. Kristjanson, J. Ogutu, S. B. BurnSilver, M. J. Goldman, R. B. Boone, K. A. Galvin, N. M. Dickson and W. C. Clark. 2016. Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(17):4579-4584. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900313106. (link )


Biggs, R., M. Schluter, D. Biggs, E. L. Bohensky, S. B. BurnSilver, G. Cundill, V. Dakos, T. M. Daw, L. S. Evans, K. Kotschy, A. M. Leitch, C. Meek, A. Quinlan, C. Raudsepp-Heame, M. D. Robards, M. L. Schoon, L. Schultz and P. C. West. 2012. Toward principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:421-448. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-051211-123836. (link )


Kofinas, G. P., F. S. Chapin III, S. B. BurnSilver, J. I. Schmidt, N. L. Fresco, K. Kielland, S. Martin, A. Springsteen and T. S. Rupp. 2010. Resilience of Athabascan subsistence systems to interior Alaska's changing climate. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40(7):1347-1359. DOI: 10.1139/X10-108. (link )


Thornton, P. K., R. B. Boone, K. A. Galvin, S. B. BurnSilver, M. M. Waithaka, J. Kuyiah, S. Karanja, E. Gonzalez-Estrada and M. Herrero. 2007. Coping strategies in livestock-dependent households in east and southern Africa: A synthesis of four case studies. Human Ecology 35(2):461-476. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-007-9118-5. (link )


Thornton, P. K., S. B. BurnSilver, R. B. Boone and K. A. Galvin. 2006. Modelling the impacts of group ranch subdivision on agro-pastoral households in Kajiado, Kenya. Agricultural Systems 87(3):331-336. DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2005.03.001. (link )


Boone, R. B., S. B. BurnSilver, P. K. Thornton, J. S. Worden and K. A. Galvin. 2005. Quantifying declines in livestock due to land subdivision. Rangeland Ecology & Management 58(5):523-532. (link )

Christensen, L., S. BurnSilver and M. Coughenour. 2005. Integrated assessment of the dynamics, stability and resilience of the Inner Mongolian grazing systems. Nomadic Peoples 9(1/2):131-145. (link )

Book Chapters


Dakos, V., A. Quinlan, J. A. Baggio, E. Bennett, O. Bodin and S. B. BurnSilver. 2015. Principle 2: Manage connectivity. Pp. 80-104 In: Biggs, R., M. Schluter and M. L. Schoon eds., Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems. Cambridge University Press.


Boone, R. B., S. B. BurnSilver, J. S. Worden, K. A. Galvin and N. T. Hobbs. 2008. Large-scale movements of large herbivores livestock following changes in seasonal forage supply. Pp. 187-206 In: Van Langevelde F., H. T. ed., Resource Ecology. Vol 23. Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6850-8_16. (link )



Anderies, J. M., H. Eakin, M. A. Janssen, C. Redman, A. Barnett, J. Baggio, S. B. BurnSilver, D. Manuel-Navarrete, M. Schoon and S. van der Leeuw. 2014. Resilience thinking in an urbanizing world. Presentation at the Resilience 2014 Resilience and Development: Mobilizing for Transformation, 4-8 May 2014, Le Corum, Montpellier, France. (link )