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Idaho State University’s Katherine Reedy-Maschner to expand work in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands on subsistence harvests

Posted April 12, 2012

Katherine Reedy-Maschner, associate professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, has received a $300,000 grant to expand her research in Alaska's Aleutian Island chain. The grant is funded by the Office of Subsistence Management, a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Katherine Maschner on the shore of the Bering Sea.According to Reedy-Maschner, the grant will fund a three-year study of marine fish and sea mammal harvesting in four remote Aleutian Island villages. This is a continuation of her previous research studying subsistence harvests in villages of the eastern Aleutian Islands and the Alaska Peninsula. This study tracks resource harvesting and use, how much is harvested, and where it is harvested. She will also collect data on sharing wild foods, resources and labor organization in order to track the social networks that tie these distant communities to one another, mainland Alaska, and the rest of the world.

The project uses techniques and network analysis to organize the data and continues her collaboration with Corey Schou, director of the ISU Informatics Research Institute and associate dean of the ISU College of Business, who created the social network tools she uses in this research. This new information will be used to analyze how modern peoples in remote villages use their marine environments and how marine foods are integrated into social networks.

Research in the islands can be difficult due to their isolation and the expense and difficulty of travel, much of which takes place in small planes, according to Reedy-Maschner. It is no surprise that much of the research in the Aleutians focuses on the fishing industry.

"All we hear about are Bering Sea commercial fishing," Reedy-Maschner explained, "but I will focus more on local harvesting and community involvement in the commercial fishing industries."

Despite a lengthy application process for funding and difficult travel conditions, Reedy-Maschner said she finds her work extremely rewarding.

"I love getting to document life in these remote places that otherwise no one would know much about," she said. "The people are amazing. Just buying a gallon of milk [in the islands] can be challenging, and they do it with such grace."

While she is conducting this project for the Office of Subsistence Management, Reedy-Maschner will ultimately use this new information as the focus of her next major book project.

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