Integrated Research and Extension Programs

Consistent with the signature theme’s disciplinary grounding in rural and development sociology, faculty research is problem-focused and highly integrated with extension/outreach programs. Agriculture, Environment, and Development faculty are nationally and internationally prominent and active in professional associations, journals, and funding agencies. These journals and associations include the areas of rural sociology, international development, agriculture and food, science and technology, and natural resources. Recent grants have come from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Justice; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; U.S. Agency for International Development; and from various stakeholder groups across Iowa. Extension efforts focus on assisting Iowans in addressing the social and human dimensions related to agriculture, environment, and development. Faculty and staff currently deliver extension education programs in demographic and economic change, local food systems, natural resources management, conservation, climate change, and the bioeconomy.

Faculty center their research and extension scholarship in two of the distinct areas within this signature theme: (1) sociology of agriculture and natural resources, and (2) development and rural sociology. In practice, however, faculty members in both areas work in close collaboration with each other, with other sociologists, and with other social and natural scientists.

The sociology of agriculture and natural resources area is an established and major part of our research and extension programs. Research on human dimensions of agriculture and natural resource management focuses on human-natural systems including climate change, the bioeconomy, hypoxia conditions associated with agricultural nutrient losses, soil erosion and water quality, food system value chains, and diversified agricultural systems. Research questions address human adaptation to social and environmental change, and the roles of social relations, human beliefs, attitudes, and motivations.

Development and rural sociology is an emerging research and extension area focusing on agricultural, economic, and rural development in the context of globalization. Research questions address the potential causes and consequences of demographic, economic, and social change over multiple scales such as time, space, culture, and institutions.  Demographic change includes trends in population, migration, education, and health both domestically and globally. Economic change includes poverty, inequality, and rural economic development in the Global North and Global South. Social change includes institutions, social capital, culture, and attitudes at home and abroad.