Office of the Provost

JMU Environmental Sociologist Receives Grant to Explore Resource Shocks and Community Change


Dr. Chris Colocousis has been a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and IDLS faculty since 2010. An environmental sociologist, much of his research focuses on society-environment interactions at the community level with an emphasis on understanding patterns of social and environmental change in natural resource dependent communities that have historically relied on timber, pulp and paper, and fishing. He is particularly interested in how changes contribute to the reproduction of inequality across space and how historical patterns of resource control can constrain the future of communities through long-term processes of environmental change.

What happens when a community that has depended on resource-based industry for a century sees that livelihood disappear? Why do communities in broadly similar circumstances take on different trajectories after experiencing such shocks? Colocousis endeavors to answer questions such as these; his work has been published in both mainstream sociology and interdisciplinary journals.

In addition to his advising duties as IDLS faculty, Dr. Colocousis teaches the IDLS 400 capstone seminar on energy and society. This course for future teachers explores the ways in which all of us are embedded in systems of energy production and consumption on a daily basis and illustrates that patterns of energy production and use, with respect to both the past and the future, are not random or inevitable. In the course, Dr. Colocousis emphasizes that negotiating the future in a way that successfully addresses the social and environmental issues posed by our patterns of energy use will depend on increased energy literacy. Students in the course work to develop a set of materials and skills to promote energy literacy in elementary schools.

In collaboration with colleagues at Ohio State University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Maine, Dr. Colocousis was recently awarded a $500,000 research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This study will integrate social and environmental data to better understand how rural community characteristics influence patterns of change following shocks—such as mill closures, wildfires, or resource depletion—that disrupt the relationship between forest-based communities and the ecosystems on which they depend.

Published: Monday, April 25, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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