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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 natural resources they have depended on for centuries. At the core of her research is the question of how households and communities respond to these changes by combining new and old (economic and social) strategies in the face of significant risks to human livelihoods and well-being. She frames her theoretical questions from within 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 also addresses broader concerns of human well-being, social equity and sustainability.  Dr. BurnSilver's research is sited in the Alaskan Arctic with modern Iñupiaq hunters/fishers and 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, they now face new sources of risk and uncertainty, such as climate change, market integration, and property rights transformations. Do traditional coping strategies and social structures disappear under new sources of risk?  Dr. BurnSilver's research indicates otherwise. Households use unique and evolving combinations of emergent (novel) and old (traditional) strategies to respond to change.  Her work combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies, leveraging the strengths of ethnography and quantitative survey research by incorporating unique insights gained from social network analysis, traditional ecological knowledge, collaborative science, and social-ecological modeling. 

PhD, Human Ecology, Colorado State University, 2007

MS, Resource Interpretation, Colorado State University, 1997

BA, International Relations, Scripps College, 1987

Journal Articles


Biggs, R., M. Schluter, D. Biggs, E. L. Bohensky, S. 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 )

Book Chapters


Dakos, V., A. Quinlan, J. A. Baggio, E. Bennett, O. Bodin and S. 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.



Anderies, J. M., H. Eakin, M. A. Janssen, C. Redman, A. Barnett, J. Baggio, S. 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 )