PULLMAN – WSU Regents Professor of Archeology Timothy Kohler will receive a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Forest Service to better understand the interactions between humans and their environment by studying coupled natural and human systems.

Kohler and his colleagues will receive a $1,499,172 grant to study the dynamic interaction between prehispanic Pueblo peoples and their environment. The project, entitled “Coupled Natural and Human Ecosystems over Long Periods: Pueblo Ecodynamics” is a collaborative effort between WSU, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the University of Windsor, and is under the direction of Kohler.

The grant will expand on-going research that Kohler and several WSU graduate students have been conducting for the past five years.

“We are trying to understand the way Pueblo societies reacted to environmental changes, and also how they changed their environments,” Kohler said. “One period we are focusing on is the A.D. 1200s, when the northern U.S. Southwest was depopulated, due in part to climate changes. We are facing climate changes now, caused partly by humans, but now as well as then, climate change caused stress to the coupled social and environmental systems. As the environment changed, we are learning how the Pueblo societies changed. That knowledge helps us predict how contemporary societies will respond to climate change due to global warming.”

This and other research conducted through NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program will provide a better understanding of natural processes and cycles, human behavior and decisions, and how they interact.

“Studying coupled human and natural environmental systems shows new, complex patterns that the natural and human sciences don’t reveal when they function separately,” said David Lightfoot, NSF assistant director for social, behavioral and economic sciences. “Research on environmental change, in terms of human causes and consequences, is a new kind of complexity science that has yielded interesting interactions.”

“Several of these awards will investigate how climate change will impact human and natural systems, and how these coupled systems may respond adaptively,” said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. “The awards highlight the relevance and interdisciplinary nature of the CNH program in NSF’s portfolio of investments in climate change research.”

Other recipients of the NSF grants are Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ohio State University, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Arizona State University, University of Montana, University of Oregon at Eugene, Michigan State University and University of Minnesota.  For more information, visit http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=112346&govDel=USNSF_51