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 School of Geography and the Environment

Dr Thomas F. Thornton

Dr Tom Thornton

Position:

Director of MSc in Environmental Change and Management, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor

Contact:

e: Thomas.Thornton@ouce.ox.ac.uk
t: 01865 275877

Profile

As director for the MSc in Environmental Change and Management, I oversee the course and teach various options and modules. In addition, I am a senior research fellow at the ECI. My academic training is in social and cultural anthropology (BA Swarthmore College; MA, PhD University of Washington). Before coming to Oxford in 2008, I taught at Portland State University, Trinity College, Saint Lawrence University, the University of Alaska, and Beijing Normal University (Fulbright Lectureship). I also worked in government as an environmental resource specialist and as a consultant to Native American tribes.

My primary teaching and research interests are in human ecology, adaptation, local and traditional ecological knowledge, conservation, coastal and marine environments, conceptualizations of space and place, and the political ecology of resource management among the indigenous peoples of North America and the circumpolar North.

Research Interests

I belong to the Climate Systems and Policy and Biodiversity research clusters in the School of Geography and the Environment.

Recent research projects include:

Indigenous Ecotourism Enterprises. This project will identify best practices in the development of indigenous ecotourism from a social entrepreneurial and cultural-institutional perspective.

Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change (HABC) (Co-Investigator, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation lead project funded through a partnership between the Department for International Development (DFID), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), 2010-11)

This project's aim is to kickstart the development of appropriate conceptual frameworks, methods and integrated models for understanding human adaptation to change in biodiversity and related ecosystem services that can eventually be used to predict outcomes for biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being in highly biodiversity dependent societies, and provide evidence for the utility of these outputs to a new network of researchers and policy makers. The building blocks for development of concepts, methods, tools and models are

  1. local information or knowledge systems and monitoring capacity;
  2. local valuation of biodiversity and related ecosystem services;
  3. integrating biological resources and ecosystem services into an understanding of livelihood processes;
  4. assessing perceptions, risks, needs, and ability to respond;
  5. under-standing biological and welfare outcomes and feedbacks.

The project joins partners from anthropology, economics and ecology/biology at Oxford, Kent and The University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, with partners from South Africa and India. Partners will jointly elaborate the conceptual framework in a first intensive workshop using a scenario building protocol. Then, teams incrementally develop and evaluate research protocols and methods and collect primary data in a field research site in the Western Ghats, and results are initially modeled.

Indigenous-State Relations in Alaska and Beyond: Sustainable Livelihoods, Biocultural Diversity and Health since the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) (Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation, $485,000, 2008-2011)

In September 2007, the National Science Foundation, Arctic Social Science Program funded this three-year project under grant #OPP-0715461. The objective of the project is to analyze how the creation of Alaska Native business corporations (spawned by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971) transformed institutional arrangements between Alaska Natives, state governments, ecosystems, and regional-global economies, and how these Native corporations have contributed to particular outcomes in indigenous groups' biocultural health as measured by indigenous and cross-cultural models of sustainable livelihoods and ecosystem services. The study compares development, socio-environmental change, and livelihoods in two separate biocultural regions: Bering Straits (Inupiat) and Southeast Alaska (Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian), which are served by two regional and more than a dozen village corporations.


Dynamics of Circumpolar Land Use and Ethnicity (CLUE): Social Impacts of Policy and Climate Change (Co-Principal Investigator, US National Science Foundation, 2008-2012)

This project is funded under the International Polar Year Initiative. It examines how the impacts of rapid climatic change among the peoples of the circumpolar rim affect land use and ethnicity. Using anthropological fieldwork and semi-structured interviews of members of local northern populations in Alaska, Fennoscandia, and Russia, as well as their representative organizations and government resource managers, we aim to establish the current "rules of the game" with respect to definitions, eligibility criteria, and accompanying land and resource rights. Given the variety of different criteria by which states justify special resource allocations, such as ethnic heritage, form of livelihood, residency, or even population size, CLUE seeks to uncover negotiated and path-dependant patterns of ethnicity in the context of these evolving rules and increasingnatural resource pressures, rapid climate change and resultant “rationalizations” of livelihoods.


Herring Synthesis: Documenting and Modeling Herring Spawning Areas within Socio-Ecological Systems over Time in the Southeastern Gulf of Alaska (Principal Investigator, North Pacific Research Board, 2007-2009)

More recently I have extended this research on marine ecosystems as part of Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Urgent Anthropology Fellowship, including networking with researchers involved in or developing similar ethnographic and historical-ecological investigations in the Canadian, Japanese, and Russian Pacific spheres, as well as the North Atlantic.

Project outputs include:


Teaching

I direct and teach primarily on the Environmental Change and Management MSc course and offer an elective on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment.

Current graduate students include:

  • Emma Cardwell
    Using Property Rights to Manage Fisheries: A Case Study from the UK
  • Abrar Chaudhury
    Costing Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change
  • Claudia Comberti
    Adaptation to Environmental Change in Amazonian Indigenous Communities: Understanding the role of Biocultural Diversity and Ecosystem Services in Supporting Positive Change
  • Dan Cooper
    Under Mount Roraima: the conservation and development of a sacred landscape
  • Alexis Gutierrez
    The impact of market-based incentives on global sustainable fishing
  • Shauna Monkman
  • Chase Sova
    Climate change adaptation within the agricultural sector
  • Jessica Thorn
    Measuring local ecosystem services of small-scale agricultural landscapes in the context of global environment change
  • Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria
    Linking interactions between cultural and biological diversity on the Pacific Coast of North America in the face of climatic change.

    Recent Publications

    2014
    2013
    2012
    2011
    2010
    2009
    • Thornton, T.F. (2009) Anatomy of a traditional cultural property: the saga of Auke Cape. The George Wright Forum, 26(1): 64-75.
    2008
    2007
    • Hunn, E.S., Johnson, D.R., Russell, P.N. and Thornton, T.F. Piatt, J.F. and S.M. Gende (eds.) (2007) Huna Tlingit gull egg harvests in Glacier Bay National Park, 2007.Piatt, J.F. and S.M. Gende (eds.) Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5047. Proceedings of the Fourth Glacier Bay Science Symposium, October 26–28, 2004. U.S. pp. 193-195(3).
    • Thornton, T. (2007) Alaska Native Corporations and Subsistence: Paradoxical forces in the construction of sustainable communities. Chapter 2 in, Maida, C.A. (ed.) Sustainability and Communities of Place. Bergham, Oxford. ISBN: 978-1-84545-016-8.
    • Thornton, T. Piatt, J.F. and S.M. Gende (eds.) (2007) The cultural ecology of berries in Glacier Bay.Piatt, J.F. and S.M. Gende (eds.) Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5047. Proceedings of the Fourth Glacier Bay Science Symposium, October 26-28 2004, US. pp. 29-34(6).
    2005
    • Thornton, T.F. (2005) Last of the sealers or last of the seals? Natural History ('Picks from the Past' online feature)..
    • Wheeler, P. and Thornton, T.F. (2005) Subsistence Research in Alaska: A thirty year retrospective. Alaska Journal of Anthropology, 3(1): 69-103.
    2004
    2003
    • Hunn, E.S., Johnson, D.R., Russell, P.N. and Thornton, T.F. (2003) Huna Tlingit traditional environmental knowledge, conservation and the management of a "Wilderness" Park. Current Anthropology,, 44(Supp): 167-194.
    • Thornton, T.F. (2003) Place names and the language of subsistence in southeast Alaska. Maintaining the Links: Language, Identity and the Land. Proceedings of the Seventh FEL Conference, Broome, Australia. Foundation for Endangered Languages.
    2002
    2001
    • Thornton, T. (2001) Subsistence in Northern Communities: Lessons from Alaska. The Northern Review, 23(Summer 2001): 82-102.
    2000
    • Hope III, A. and Thornton, T.F. (2000) Will the time ever come? A Tlingit sourcebook. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Indigenous Knowledge Network, University of Alaska.
    1999
    • Thornton, T. (1999) Tleikw Aaní, The Berried Landscape: The structure of Tlingit edible fruit resources at Glacier Bay, Alaska. Journal of Ethnobiology, 19(1): 27-48.
    1998
    DTP Environmental Research