Climate drove 7,000 years of dietary changes

“What people eat, and how they get it, are a massive part of a person’s daily experience. Understanding what caused changes in those behaviors in the past is important to understanding how we may respond to changes in the future.” – Kurt Wilson.


Kurt is a doctoral candidate in anthropology and a past GCSC fellow working with Dr. Brian Codding. He led a study with University of Utah anthropologists providing a blueprint to systematically untangle and evaluate the power of both climate and population size on the varied diets across a region in the past.

The researchers used data from Peruvian, northern Chilean and Lake Titicaca archaeological sites and compared dietary trends over time, across three elevation categories: coastal, mid-elevation and highland. This allowed them to capture how much of diet is explained by population change and local climate, which estimates how much might be due to other social factors.

Excerpted from At the U. Read the full story here. The study is published in Scientific Reports.


Wasatch Environmental Observatory Seed Grant Awards

The GCSC recently provided seed grants to four research teams to conduct interdisciplinary research at the intersection of Wasatch Front air, water, and health. Criteria that was considered in funding decisions included utilization of Wasatch Environmental Observatory (WEO) data resources, inclusion of ecological and/or environmental justice perspectives, collaborations between academic units, and new scholarship or knowledge. These four projects engage 15 faculty from across ten different departments, seven graduate students, students in an undergraduate class, and community partners.

The projects and investigators are:

  • The Compounding Impacts of Climate Change, Air Quality, and Environmental Justice on Health Outcomes at the Neighborhood level in Salt Lake County Schools
    • Tabitha Benney, Political Science; Brett Clark,Sociology; Daniel Mendoza and John Horel, Atmospheric Sciences; Rajive Ganguli, Mining Engineering; Scott Collingwood, Yue Zhang, and Cheryl S. Pirozzi, MD, School of Medicine
  • Landscape Lab Effects on Pollutant Loads to Red Butte Creek
    • Jennifer Follstad Shah, Environmental & Sustainability Studies; Sarah HInners, City & Metropolitan Planning
  • Climate Change, Parks and Trails, and Physical Activity
    • Dennis Wei, Geography; Ivis Garcia, City & Metropolitan Planning, Ming Wen, Sociology
  • In Search of Blue Sky
    • Wendy Wischer, Art & Art History; John Lin, Atmospheric Sciences

Students initiate study on air pollution and unhoused people

Who in city government tracks the environmental effects of air pollution on people experiencing homelessness? When students in the 2019 Global Changes and Society class looked into it, they found that there was not an office with that responsibility. Initially, students set out to change that missing piece. But those efforts have now also resulted in a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, as part of a special issues “Addressing public health and health inequities in marginalized and hidden populations.”

The project-based course Global Changes and Society (SUST 6000) features guest lecturers with expertise in research related to global changes and sustainability. In this course, students from different disciplines Identify a theme or focus area, begin to learn the language and approaches of other disciplines around the theme, explore perspectives and approaches of different stakeholders, and develop a team project. Recognizing that there are disproportionate environmental impacts on certain socially and geographically vulnerable communities in the Salt Lake Valley, students in the 2019 class developed projects to address some of these issues.

The student group with members including Angelina DeMarco and Rebecca Hardenbrook (GCSC Fellow 2018-19) noted that during poor air quality events such as inversions, wildfires, and heightened ozone periods, residents are urged to stay indoors when possible, but people affected by homelessness don’t have the luxury of escaping indoors on short notice to avoid poor air conditions. But it appeared that no-one had researched the effects of poor air quality on this population.

Read about the research project these students developed with GCSC faculty affiliates Daniel Mendoza (Atmospheric Sciences and City & Metropolitan Planning) and Jeff Rose (Parks, Recreation and Tourism) in At the U.

Graduate Student Paper on Interdisciplinary Education

Students in the Global Changes and Society course drew on their experience in this interdisciplinary course, and have published a paper on project-based, interdisciplinary training in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

“How society responds to increasing vulnerability and change will be a defining characteristic of the 21st century. Training students to address these multidisciplinary challenges is a critical component of the educational process…Thus, learning to work within an interdisciplinary framework is an essential skill for future professionals.”1

1. Walsh, T.C., O.L. Miller, B.B. Bowen, Z.A. Levine, and J.R. Ehleringer. 2015. The sphere of sustainability: lessons from the University of Utah’s Global Change and Society. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Environment. doi 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000514.