|Friday, March 4th|
“Two Weeks Away:” How Montana Farmers Adapt to Drought
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM
In Montana, farmers may use phrases like “drought is always two weeks away” to describe the inevitable and uncertain impacts of weather and climate on their operations. Better understanding how farmers are affected by and can (or cannot) adapt to both present day and future impacts is a burgeoning area of social science research. One part of adaptation includes farmers’ material changes—the “things” that enable (or constrain) adaptation—including crop selection, machinery, and inputs. Another part is non-material factors—the “ideas” that enable (or constrain) adaptation—including farmers’ use of climate information, their ability to overcome barriers, and how they weigh the tradeoffs of a myriad factors to make decisions.
This presentation will focus on those non-material factors that influence a farmers’ adaptation to impacts like drought and climate change in Montana. How farmers perceive their agency to adapt may be linked to their perceptions of weather, technology, economies, and the practices and programs they use to mitigate risk. In turn, these perceptions may influence their ability to expand their own capacity to adapt. One potential tool for farmers to adapt is climate information. Climate information broadly includes a variety of measurements such as snowpack, soil moisture, 3-month forecasts, and 2050 projections. How farmers employ these tools not only helps us understand how climate information can be improved to be more useful for farmers across the state, but it can also help us understand how farmers conceptualize their agency and how their capacity to adapt interacts with a range of factors in a complex decision-making process.
This research includes preliminary findings from 30 interviews with farmers and mixed operators from 18 counties in Montana, the focus of a master’s thesis in resource conservation. These findings are a subset of work from a larger project which includes a mailed survey of farmers and ranchers across the state and 60 in-depth interviews. In partnership with the Montana Climate Office, the larger project uniquely used a mixed-methods approach to assess farmers’ perceptions of a suite of climate information and other factors that may influence their ability to adapt. Our results have the potential to inform policy interventions to aid farmers’ adaptation and to improve the utility of climate information to the agricultural community. Both outcomes carry implications for the resilience of Montana’s agricultural sector in the face of increasing climate impacts with potentially broad relevance to other agricultural areas and the growing body of social theory of climate adaptation.
Catch My Drift? Organic Farmers Perceptions and Experiences of Pesticide Drift in Montana
sarah Rodgers, University of Montana, Missoula
9:20 AM - 9:35 AM
Through this thesis research, the researcher explains the perceptions and experiences that certified organic farmers in Montana have about accidental pesticide contamination, mainly in the form of drift. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with certified organic farmers from various regions of Montana. Participants were given space to share their concerns, experiences, and recommendations regarding pesticide contamination and the future of this research. Key themes distilled from the data include consequences, emotional toll, neighbor relations, and more significant systematic issues that stem from drift. This research shows that drift is a complex issue that varies from farmer to farmer. Across the participants in this study, it became clear that many organic farmers want to talk about these events and share their experiences with other farmers in hopes of helping to remediate these issues. The data also pointed out that drift incidents are the tip of the iceberg, or a jumping-off point, to investigate and discuss more significant issues regarding the organic system in its entirety, power concentration in the food system, and fear about pesticides existing in the ambient environment. Organic farmers need to have their voices heard regarding pesticide incidents. Their knowledge and emersion in these issues are unmatched, and this research shows just how integral that voice is. Along with one-on-one interviews with organic farmers, interviews with other food system stakeholders were conducted to better understand the policies and procedures that control what happens when drift occurs at the state level. A deeper understanding of the policy landscape is essential to offer policy changes and create important informational material to assist organic farmers who experience drift in the future.
Does Diversification in the Face of Increased Climate Risks Depend on Individual Risk Preferences? Evidence from Rondônia, Brazil
Brenna Y. Swinger, University of Montana, Missoula
9:40 AM - 9:55 AM
Risk exposure and risk management are inherent to smallholder farmers and their activities. One of the larger risks farmers are facing is climate change. Climate change decreases rainfall, increases frequency of drought, adds heat stress to crops from higher temperatures, and leads to higher variability in rainfall. The threat of rainfall variability causes higher production in some years and lower production in others. Even if the average income remains the same year to year, people that tend to be risk averse don’t like the uncertainty. This will be particularly true if they don’t have a safety net to help them weather a bad year.
Diversification is one of the key adaption strategies that may help reduce climate risk. Farmers diversify by constructing an increasingly diverse portfolio of activities. Diversified farmers may produce multiple types of crops, sell things like milk and livestock, or look to off-farm sources like jobs or rental income. Rainfall variability is one type of risk that may continue to grow as the earth faces higher rates of climate change. It is useful to understand how farmers adapt to this risk as they move forward and face potentially even higher variabilities in their seasonal rainfall. Looking into how households make decisions based on their own risk attitudes and increasing environmental risk will aid policy makers in crafting policy to alleviate the burden on smallholder farmers.
A diversification strategy, rather than specializing in the most profitable activity, can result in a tradeoff. Choosing to diversify could lead to lower average income but in return farmers would benefit from less variable income. Farmer’s likelihood to adopt a diversification strategy in the face of increased rainfall variability could likely depend on their attitudes towards risk. People will have different attitudes towards risk in general, with some more naturally open to risks, others more averse. This paper aims to answer the question, does diversification in the face of increased climate risk depend on the individual risk attitudes of smallholder farmers?
To answer this question, I use a data set from a survey conducted in 2019 by the Connections Between Water and Rural Production project containing observations on 1,267 smallholder farming households in Rondônia, Brazil. I estimate a linear regression model of diversification as a function of risk preferences, the standard deviation of rain, and their interaction. I also control for average rainfall and farm lot and household characteristics.
Previous studies have looked at how climate or rainfall affect diversification as well as how risk attitudes affect diversification. However, few studies consider the fact that these two things are likely to interact. Rainfall variability changes the riskiness of focusing on a single form of income. Some farmers, dependent on their risk attitudes, will be okay with that while others will not. There will likely be tradeoffs for those who diversify in the form of lower income to attain higher levels of security. My work will investigate whether the impacts of rainfall variability on diversification vary with risk attitudes.
The preliminary results of the initial regression, which did not include an interaction term between rainfall variability and risk attitudes, showed that neither risk attitudes nor rainfall variability were statistically significant in determining levels of diversification. It did show that the age of the household head and the size of the lot were statistically significant. I will do further work to create interaction terms and run further regressions to determine whether the impact of rainfall variability on diversification varies with risk attitudes.
Indigenous Food Sovereignty and 1994 Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities
Nicole A. Benally, University of Montana, Missoula
10:00 AM - 10:15 AM
Indigenous food systems are an essential asset of tribal sovereignty; however, these systems have been colonized, altered, and in some cases, destroyed. Although the causes are extremely complex, the loss of indigenous food systems is rooted in colonization, the removal of tribal people from their indigenous homelands, and the alienation of tribal people from their traditional foodways (Mihesuah and Hoover, 2019; Cote, 2016). Indigenous food sovereignty (IFS) “refers to a reconnection to land-based food and political systems,” and seeks to uphold “sacred responsibilities to nurture relationships with our land, culture, spirituality, and future generations” (Mihesuah and Hoover, 2019). Through the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 passed by the U.S. Congress, there are 32 federally recognized Tribal Land-grant Colleges and Universities (TCU) designated as land-grant institutions that help improve the lives and career opportunities for tribal students and tribal communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs that include the enhancement of local agriculture and food production (Gasman et al., 2008). Overall the role of TCUs in building and supporting IFS is unknown, investigating why they are not more involved in IFS, and/or what barriers these institutions encounter will allow us to evaluate what type of resources they need to better serve indigenous communities and understand what can the TCUs do, to better support IFS as leaders? A comprehensive literature review on IFS within indigenous-led programming, non-indigenous initiatives, and its intersectionality with TCUs will be performed. Cote (2016) mentions that IFS is positioned as a restorative framework that places responsibility and action on [Indigenous] individuals and communities to repair and strengthen relationships to ancestral homelands weakened by colonialism, globalization, and neoliberal policies. To research these roles, a survey will be distributed and analyzed to at least three key individuals from each TCU, followed by interviews at selected TCU campuses. This work is vital to help tribal communities progress their sovereignty and IFS among their tribal communities and TCU campuses.
Cote, C. (2016) “Indigenizing” Food Sovereignty. Revitalizing Indigenous Food Practices and Ecological Knowledges in Canada and the United States. Humanities.
Gasman, M., Baez, B., Sotello, C., and Turner, V. (2008) Understanding Minority-Serving Institutions. State University of New York.
Mihesuah, D. and Hoover, E. (2019) Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health. University of Oklahoma Press.
CFAC Research Project: Expanding Double SNAP Dollars Equitably
Andrew T. Besser
10:20 AM - 10:35 AM
The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) is a local Missoula nonprofit that works to grow a healthy food community and make food accessible for all. CFAC coordinates Double SNAP Dollars (DSD), a program since 2015 that allows eligible Montanans to double their benefit dollars from SNAP to purchase fresh and local food. CFAC’s Equity and Growth Subcommittee is currently looking to expand the DSD program in Montana equitably after receiving a grant from the USDA. This report used data on counties within Montana to determine areas of priority for DSD expansion based on SNAP participation, percentage of population over 65, food insecurity rate, and percentage identifying as Native American or Alaskan Native. Individual locations were evaluated using criteria of county food insecurity rate, county SNAP usage, opportunity zone, rural, tribally owned/operated, located in Central/Eastern Montana, and if a location currently accepts SNAP.
Using Excel 2013, two matrices were created to provide CFAC with information on where to best expand the DSD program. The first matrix used 4 sets of data to evaluate counties and give a score to determine how much of a priority DSD expansion should be in a given county. These sets of data were SNAP participation, percentage of population over 65, food insecurity rate, and percentage identifying as Native American or Alaskan Native. The Excel formula gave each county a score out of 20 based on the percentage of each of the 4 categories. Each county was ranked based on the scores determined by the first matrix and color coded on a GIS map to visualize counties of greatest need in Montana. The top five counties in Montana were Big Horn, Glacier, Lake, Roosevelt, and Rosebud counties. The second matrix was for direct market farms, farmers markets, and retail market locations CFAC identified as potential future DSD locations. This excel matrix gave each potential location a score based on the factors the location has, and a higher score representing a higher priority for expansion. The factors were based on the location’s County food insecurity rate, County SNAP usage, Opportunity Zone, Rural/Urban, Tribally Owned/Operated, in Central or Eastern Montana, and if the location accepts SNAP. Each of these factors were multiplied by a weight determined in meetings with the Growth and Equity Subcommittee to give certain factors more importance in DSD expansion. These results were analyzed to provide recommendations to CFAC on locations and counties to prioritize expansion of the DSD program. This approach used original excel formulas to quantify location and county data to assist CFAC in expanding the DSD program. Using weighting factors allows the formulas adapt if priorities change or certain factors are determined to be more important. Additional locations can be inputted into the matrix and scored to determine priority of expansion. The county matrix formula can be used with different data to rank counties based on other factors. The matrices developed in this report offer a county-level glimpse into the needs of Montanans and where to prioritize expanding the DSD program to.
Hydrogeomorphic Response of Steep Streams after Wildfire in the Western Cascades, Oregon
David M. Busby
10:40 AM - 10:55 AM
Severe fire may increase the vulnerability of steep mountain streams (5-10% slopes) to disturbance by increasing peak discharges, elevating inputs of sediment and wood into channels, and increasing the likelihood of landslides and debris flows. Understanding the effects of wildfire on steep streams is integral to post-fire hazard assessment and mitigation of negative impacts to riverine ecosystems and downstream communities. In the Western Cascades, the historic magnitude and severity of the 2020 wildfires, coupled with variable physiography and timber harvest history, produces substantial uncertainty about post-fire fluvial geomorphic response. In this study, we evaluate the hydrogeomorphic response of steep streams in the Western Cascades to the 2020 Archie Creek and Holiday Farm fires, and assess the relative influence of biophysical variables (e.g., burn severity, precipitation, topography, forest age and cover) on morphologic change. We conducted channel surveys in December 2020 and June 2021 in five steep stream reaches spanning biophysical gradients to assess post-fire streamflow and sediment transport capacity, and changes in channel topography, grain size, and wood. Additionally, we completed uncrewed aerial vehicle surveys to create post-fire digital elevation models (DEMs) and, in turn, DEMs-of-difference maps using pre- and post-fire DEMs to measure topographic change from post-fire erosion and deposition. Preliminary observations from channel surveys show post-fire wood loading in all burnt study streams, one small landslide, and limited gravel aggradation. No new debris flows have been identified in our study areas, indicating that precipitation thresholds for debris flow initiation were not exceeded during the 2021 water year, or that root reinforcement provided enough stabilization on hillslopes to prevent mass wasting. Overall, initial geomorphic responses have been muted in our study streams, despite the high burn severity and steep topography of these sites, perhaps owing to below-normal precipitation in the winter and spring following the fires. Wood inputs to channels are likely to be the most persistent geomorphic effect in the first year after the fires. This work contributes to the greater understanding of landscape evolution following extreme fire.
Mapping Groundwater Flow in Riparian Ecosystems Through Thermal and Multispectral UAV Surveys of Surface Water and Vegetation
Claire Rawlings Gilder, University of Montana, Missoula
11:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Climate change and anthropogenic water demand heighten the need for accurate and efficient groundwater mapping and for understanding relationships between groundwater and ecosystems. To interpret the relationship between groundwater flow in an alluvial aquifer and vegetation development, and specifically whether vegetation distribution patterns can be used to discern areas of groundwater inputs or localized variations in the vertical hydraulic gradient of the aquifer, we are developing a method using UAV surveys and remote sensing. We surveyed the Nyack reach of the Middle Fork Flathead River, a gravel-bed, multi-thread system with active surface water-ground water exchange, using a fixed-wing UAV with thermal, visible light, and multispectral camera, in summer 2020 and spring 2021, complemented by water depth and temperature logging along the length of the reach. Vegetation features and extent within the floodplain are classified according to multispectral signatures from the UAV surveys.
To detect the thermal signature of groundwater upwelling into surface water, based on groundwater’s stable temperature compared to surface water’s daily and seasonal fluctuations, we combined the summer water-temperature time series with reach-scale thermal and visible light maps created during a single August day. We modeled bed topography using the Optical River Bathymetry Toolkit (ORByT). This model showed that the flow depth ranged from 0.05m to 4.5m during baseflow. When compared to thermal maps, deeper water was cooler than shallow water, providing a baseline to locate cool groundwater inputs in shallow water.
To create a more complete picture of interactions between vegetation, groundwater, and surface water, we use spatial inference methods to identify patterns in vegetation distribution that are correlated to groundwater upwelling identified through the combined spatially discrete, season-long surface-water temperature time series and temporally discrete but spatially continuous temperature and vegetation data from UAV surveys. Preliminary results indicate that UAV surveys can be a useful tool in groundwater mapping in mountainous alluvial systems and can streamline the field-data collection required to make informed decisions about river system management.
Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) alter carbon pools and fluxes in intermountain headwater streams
11:20 AM - 11:35 AM
The use of Beaver Dam Analogs (BDAs) is a widely adopted, low-cost stream restoration technique that mimics the structure and function of natural beaver dams. Analogous to beaver dams, BDAs restore the stream’s connectivity with its floodplain by increasing water residence time and facilitating sediment retention in the stream channel. Greater connectivity afforded by BDAs is expected to drive changes in carbon pools and fluxes in ways similar to those in active beaver meadows where beaver engineering causes landscape-scale C storage but also releases the greenhouse gasses CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere. It is assumed that carbon storage in BDA-restored streams will occur in the stream channel behind the structures and in riparian soils while simultaneously emitting greenhouse gases from the inundated soils. Although our research indicates that there are strong patterns that show four-fold increases in particulate organic carbon (POC) pools in BDA restored reaches, there is a lack of clear BDA effects on soil carbon and soil greenhouse gas fluxes. However, we expect that such differences may emerge as time since restoration increases.
To examine the impacts of BDAs on the carbon economy of restored streams, we measured carbon pools and fluxes in BDA-restored and unrestored stream reaches in three headwater streams in western Montana. During the summer of 2021, two years after restoration, we measured instream and riparian carbon pools and the release of CO2 and CH4 from riparian soils. To quantify carbon pools, we sampled accumulated sediments within the stream channel and collected riparian soil cores along each stream. To assess carbon gas, we compared how elevated groundwater and surface water levels alter decomposition in soils by measuring the loss of both CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere.
Despite the focus of past research on the effects of BDAs on stream hydrology and fish habitat, there has been little research examining their influence on carbon pools and fluxes. Though BDAs have the ability to accelerate the recovery of degraded streams by maintaining water supply, elevated groundwater and surface water levels and increased organic matter pools have the potential to shift soil gas fluxes from CO2 to CH4, which has a global warming potential that is 84-Fold higher than CO2 on a 20-year timescale. Thus the positive effects of BDAs may in part be offset by increased greenhouse gas production. This study showed increased C storage but did not find strong evidence of increased CH4 emissions, suggesting that in the short term, the benefits of BDAs are positive at the ecosystem level. Further study is necessary to see what the longer-term impacts are likely to be as C accumulates.
Greenhouse treatments before planting enhance ponderosa pine reforestation success
Timber Burnette, Division of Biological Sciences, UM
11:40 AM - 11:55 AM
Global environmental change has increasingly negative direct and indirect effects on forests. Indirectly, hotter and drier conditions make fires more frequent and more severe. Large patches of stand-replacing fire can result in forest loss by killing resilient adult trees and thus limiting seed sources at the site. Even if seeds are available, hotter and drier conditions also directly limit seedling establishment post-fire, especially if there was significant adult tree mortality and thus less canopy shade. Combined, the direct and indirect effects of global environmental change threaten western USA forests, and reforestation is common practice to mitigate ecosystem change.
While standard operating procedures for reforestation are informed by decades of research and are necessities for coordinating planting, recent plant ecophysiological research suggests a revision may increase seedling drought tolerance, survival, and post-fire restoration success. Two key steps in the reforestation pipeline, freezer and cooler storage of the seedlings, likely reduce plant carbohydrate storage. This is concerning because reduced carbohydrate storage decreases seedling drought tolerance in several woody species. Generally, carbohydrate-depleted plants die more frequently and faster under droughts. In summer 2021, I investigated whether manipulations to increase seedling carbohydrate storage prior to planting improve conifer seedling drought tolerance, survival, and post-fire restoration success. I grew ponderosa pine seedlings in a greenhouse for three weeks in full light (“light seedlings”) or 3% light (“shade seedlings”) to elevate or further decrease, respectively, carbohydrate storage before planting. A control group of seedlings were subjected to standard reforestation procedures (“control seedlings”; no greenhouse treatment). I planted seedlings in early May and monitored them throughout the following summer and fall.
Overall, my preliminary results suggest that greenhouse light treatments, intended to increase carbohydrate storage before planting, improved conifer seedling water relations and overall health relative to shade or control treatments. Specifically, I found that the greenhouse light treatment resulted in less needle dieback, more root biomass, less drought stress, and improved survival when compared to shade and control treatments in the field. These results suggest that changes to reforestation procedures will improve reforestation outcomes in a hotter, drier world of the future. Producing more resilient, drought- and heat-tolerant conifer seedlings is critical for cost-efficiently restoring western USA forests post-fire.
Akaitapitsiniksinists Ais’stimattsookinaan Aatsimani, “Our Stories Show Us, Connectedness” – Stakeholder Perspectives of Culturally Important Species of the Blackfoot
1:30 PM - 1:45 PM
The objective of this project is to understand the unique characteristics of cultural keystone species of the Blackfoot Confederacy because the social-ecological dynamics, or human dimensions of wildlife management, affect the ways cultural keystone species are managed within Native American communities and their traditional territories in the U.S.. Cultural keystone species, or CKS, are animals that form the contextual underpinnings of a culture, as reflected in their fundamental roles in diet, used materials or medicine. These species often feature prominently in the language, ceremonies and narratives of native peoples. Additionally, different cultural groups may define certain CKS as critical indicators of a healthy relationship and adaptation to their environment, which is essential to the stability of a culture over time, especially in a changing climate. Understanding CKS encompasses the understanding of species biology, along with the species’ role in indigenous lifeways and current management practices by all, indigenous or not. Through documenting stakeholder perspectives of experiential knowledge and contemporary science, contributions can be made to better-inform effective decision making for wildlife health and conservation as it relates to the needs of indigenous communities like the Blackfoot Confederacy. More broadly, this project will provide both tribal and non-tribal managers an actionable resource to improve tribal-trust natural resource management practices, like acceptance and utilization of traditional ecological knowledge frameworks of wildlife biology, science and management.
Assessing the Vulnerability of At-Risk Amphibians to Regional Climate Change
Ross K. Hinderer, The University Of Montana
1:50 PM - 2:05 PM
Title: Assessing the Vulnerability of At-Risk Amphibians to Regional Climate Change
Purpose: Climate change threatens the persistence of many species worldwide. However, the effects of climate change on a particular species or in a particular location vary based on many factors. Some amphibians may benefit from climate changes while others will not, so understanding the factors associated with higher risks of detrimental effects will allow decision-makers to focus on protecting particularly vulnerable species and populations. Unfortunately, many amphibian species are not well-studied so ecologists are missing key details about their habitat use or life cycle making typical methods for studying their vulnerability unfeasible.
Methods: Climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) is a tool for understanding how the effects of climate change might act differently on species or populations, and allows researchers to rank their relative vulnerabilities to future climate predictions. We performed a CCVA for amphibian species of greatest conservation need in seven states in the North Central US (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas). We chose to assess the species at the management-scale, and focused on a group of species which are considered at-risk, but data deficient. First, we searched the scientific literature for past research that has used CCVA or closely related analyses to study vulnerability of animals or plants to climate changes. We looked for key attributes that were important for vulnerability and potentially available for amphibians. We developed a list of characteristics of species or populations that are considered important to climate change vulnerability based on ecological theory and past work, and combined these characteristics with measures of predicted climate change in the coming decades. We scored 32 amphibian species of the North Central region based on these characteristics and their predicted level of exposure to environmental changes. Finally, we ranked the species according to their predicted vulnerability.
Originality: CCVAs have been used to describe the relative vulnerability of species at the local, regional, or global level, often focusing on broad groups of organisms or one particular species in a variety of habitats. Amphibians possess many characteristics that make them unique among animals. Some of these characteristics are not accounted for in past CCVAs, or the CCVA analysis was broad enough (i.e., at the species range-level) to make management recommendations difficult. We used characteristics of amphibian species or populations identified through past research and ecological theory to predict the vulnerability of these under-studied organisms in the absence of detailed information about their ecology, at a scale which will provide useful conclusions for wildlife managers.
Significance: Our work represents a useful approach to identify regional vulnerability of a group of amphibians already thought to be at-risk in seven US states. The relative ranking of species of greatest conservation need will allow those responsible for conservation decision-making to better understand which avenues to focus conservation actions on, and to hopefully improve the outcome of imperiled species conservation measures in the region.
The Forgotten Epidemic: Identification of MTBC in the Neolithic Trypillia of Verteba Cave, Ukraine
2:30 PM - 2:45 PM
Microorganisms have plagued humankind for millennia and frequently participate in an evolutionary arms race against their hosts. Diseases from various microorganisms have crippled entire countries or led to massive population declines in recent history. However, much is unknown about epidemiology in ancient times. My project will be the first comprehensive paleoepidemiological approach to understand disease across populations in Europe during the Neolithic era (7000-1700BC). The Neolithic was one of the most profound transformations in human history, both culturally and biologically. Massive migrations, formations of the earliest settlements in Europe, and introduction of agriculture and pastoralism led to new environments for humans, domesticates, and microorganisms. By analyzing over 1000 genomes from across Europe, I will be able to identify certain pathogens in specific populations. This data will be coupled with archaeology and linguistics data to begin tracing the group’s movements to understand the disease dynamics and how disease started and spread. Eventually, a broad picture will be painted of the entire ancient history of disease on the European continent. This research will provide understanding of largescale disease progression and its many variables including cultural subsistence, population migration, and pathogen evolution. Conclusions from this research can be used as case studies for current or future disease outbreaks and the genetic information obtained from pathogens can potentially be used to identify ways around resistant strains, such as the modern Tuberculosis resistant strains.
Funeral Director PTSD Rates as a Consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Emily C. Hicks, University of Montana
2:50 PM - 3:05 PM
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, significant media and research attention has been devoted to the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers; however, little attention has been given to the impact of COVID-19 on funeral directors. Studies before the pandemic found that high job demands (Goldenhar et al., 2001), occupational death exposure (Linley & Joseph, 2005), and heightened numbers of funerals (Harrawood et al., 2009) may have negative implications for funeral workers' mental health. The COVID-19 crisis has increased the number of deaths and funerals, as well as job expectations for funeral directors. Therefore, it is likely that funeral directors are also experiencing increased mental health concerns. Additionally, a recent study found that 28.5% of a sample of funeral directors studied met criteria for PTSD (McClanahan, 2019), a rate approximately 20% higher than that of the general population (National Center for PTSD, n.d.). Given the findings of high rates of PTSD for mortuary workers during typical times, and heightened job demands and burnout during the COVID-19 crisis, the present study sought to investigate PTSD rates of funeral directors during the ongoing pandemic. To our knowledge, it is the first study of its kind. To evaluate the PTSD rates of funeral directors during the COVID-19 pandemic, an online survey was distributed to a funeral group consisting of approximately 200 funeral homes. The final sample consisted of 10 individuals that varied across age, gender, and years of experience. PTSD diagnosis eligibility was determined using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). PCL-5 items were summed to obtain an overall score, and a cutoff score of 31 was used to determine a provisional PTSD diagnosis. Demographic questions, including years of experience, were assessed using single-item measures. Based on previous findings regarding funeral director PTSD rates and increased job demands during the pandemic, the present study hypothesized the following: 1) funeral directors will experience heightened rates of PTSD compared to the general population, 2) funeral directors will experience heightened rates of PTSD compared to previously found rates in mortuary workers (28.5%), and 3) years of experience will be negatively associated with PTSD symptoms. Descriptive statistics were utilized to assess for PTSD diagnosis eligibility and a Pearson r correlation was used to examine potential associations between years of experience and PTSD symptoms. Findings indicate that 50% of the sample met criteria for a provisional PTSD diagnosis using a cutoff score of 31, supporting the first two hypotheses. In contrast with Hypothesis 3, years of experience as a funeral director was not related to PTSD diagnosis, r(8) = .049, p=.900. The purpose of the study was to evaluate PTSD rates among funeral directors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings indicate that funeral directors are experiencing heightened rates of PTSD compared to the general population, as well as compared to pre-pandemic rates among funeral directors. Years of experience was not related to PTSD symptoms, as both new and seasoned funeral directors experienced similar levels of distress.
Food Insecurity in Butte, Montana
Elizabeth Anne Osborn
3:10 PM - 3:25 PM
Butte, Montana is a western post-industrial city marked by a unique and formative history linked to its rich copper resources and lively industrial past. Butte experienced a stark decline in employment, investment, population, and economic stability following the collapse of its primary corporate employer, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in the late 1970s. Today, Butte reports conditions of unemployment, poverty, child poverty, and food insecurity. These conditions, however, are not novel to the city. Having endured over a century of corporate control, labor conflict, and the harsh experiences of mining, conditions of poverty and food insecurity have long been a present and uniting factor of life in Butte. Using historical analysis, interviews, internship experience, and GIS mapping, this project seeks to identify spatial and temporal patterns of food insecurity in Butte, tracing its factors and evolution through time. In order to understand the present conditions of the city it is critical to understand the historic chains of explanation that decode them.
This research recognizes that food insecurity often stems from issues of poverty and access, and is deeply tied to individual and community health and wellness. Health problems that stem from food insecurity can be explained by the Social Determinants of Health, which imply that the environments in which we live influence the quality of our health. This project aims to identify, trace, and understand the conditions of food insecurity in Butte through time, as well as use these findings to suggest ways to move forward into a more food-secure future.