Marie Lowe

Assistant Professor of Public Policy


Research: effects on communities of fisheries management policy; urban-rural migration; education and youth culture

  • Ph.D., Applied Anthropology, Columbia University, 2006.
  • MA, Anthropology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2000.
  • BS, Economics, Lehigh University, 1991.

I first came to Alaska in 1990 looking for adventure and freedom and found both. Since that time, I have also been completely taken with Alaska's unique people, history, economy, and culture. I earned a doctorate in applied anthropology from Columbia University in 2006 with a thesis entitled, "The Impact of Industrialized Fishing on Localized Social and Environmental Change in Alaska's Aleutian Islands."

In 2006, I came on board with ISER to study community impacts of restructuring in fisheries, which at the time entailed an examination of the federal crab rationalization program and its real and potential effects on Aleutian and Alaska Peninsula communities. I am currently conducting sociocultural and policy research in the context of globalization, economic development, resource management, migration, youth culture, education, and workforce development. I taught courses in human geography and introductory anthropology before joining ISER. At UAA, I have taught a course in cultural anthropology and an upper division course called, "Culture and Globalization."

Enclosing the Fisheries: People, Places and Power

Dr. Lowe's new co-edited volume published by the American Fisheries Society examines effects of restricted access management in fisheries on people and their communities.

Economic logic that guides the limitation and privatization of access rights seeks to address overcapitalization and inefficiencies that result from open access fisheries. This type of fisheries management, often called rationalization, has gained international common sense appeal. Yet the contested social impacts of restricted access, market-based resource management programs are increasingly documented in academic literature and continue to be a focus of social resistance and mobilization among those who have been displaced, or rationalized out of fishing in this process. The outcomes of ownership consolidation, loss of jobs and income, decreased labor mobility, prohibitive entry costs, loss of fishing rights from small communities and other distributional inequities can be understood broadly as the sociocultural effects of fisheries access restrictions this volume addresses.

The book's chapters draw on ethnographic research in coastal communities in Alaska, British Columbia, Iceland, and New Zealand. This diverse collection of papers demonstrates the wide reach of privatization discourses and policies as experienced by people and communities dependent on fishing for livelihood and identity.

Current Research and Activities

Education and Community Viability in Western Alaska

This project examines education and community viability in Western Alaska, by identifying a cross-section of youth and young adults across the Bering Sea region who have pursued post-secondary educational opportunities facilitated by the Community Development Quota (CDQ) program. The overarching research question is: Do opportunities in post-secondary education for youth contribute to the viability of Bering Sea communities and way of life? "Viability" is defined by the degree to which a community can balance in- and out-migration, sustain livelihood diversification, and create bridges to resources external to the community. The investigators anticipate the project will help identify the most effective strategies and pathways to success that young people in Western Alaska coastal communities have employed, and the ways in which this success may benefit their home communities. Specifically, the research is aimed at uncovering the contexts in which Alaska youth can assume future community roles—in leadership, citizenship, and stewardship. The work will also help elucidate ways in which educational experiences the CDQ program provides are important not only for rural Alaska, but how the CDQ model might potentially have wider arctic or global applicability in other regions where large-scale resource development and rural communities struggling with economic development are juxtaposed.

Project Connect Evaluation

The Anchorage School District has contracted the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) to conduct a program evaluation for a Department of Defense Educational Activity funded program called, "Project Connect." The project will be undertaken in Bartlett and Eagle River High Schools and at Central and Gruening Middle Schools to improve the transition experience for military students and increase achievement levels. This project expands pilot efforts in the Anchorage School District to provide leadership learning opportunities and transition to new school environments by using experiential education and social and emotional learning methods. It also creates new initiatives that address credit recovery, extra-curricular opportunities for military children, and early intervention techniques that will begin in middle school. Research methods include: enumerating student participation in program components, high school student survey, pre-post middle school leadership skills checklist, student focused group interviews, and participant observation in classes and after school programs.

Alaska Coastal Community Youth and the Future

I am examining the perceptions and perspectives of youth in Alaska's coastal fishing communities on their lives today, their goals or aspirations about the future. I am also looking at community in- and out-migration from their perspective under the context of changing economic conditions in coastal communities. Funding Agencies: Alaska Sea Grant and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

UAA Transitions

This public service project links the University of Alaska Anchorage with the Anchorage School District in a collaborative pilot program. A semester long series of activities and events expanding the Anchorage School District's SEL program, "PACE" (Planning Academic and Career Excellence) program helping to familiarize secondary students with college while encouraging leadership and peer mentorship skills in University of Alaska students. Click here for the program website and blog:

Migration in the Anchorage School District

In September of 2008, Anchorage Superintendent of Schools, Carol Comeau, and the Municipality of Anchorage's mayor, Mark Begich, sent a letter to Governor Sarah Palin requesting attention to the matter of a perceived population influx into Anchorage from Alaska's rural communities, particularly noticeable in increased enrollment in the school district. This enrollment coincided with the largest ever permanent dividend fund payout, combined with a one-time energy rebate issued by the governor to offset rising energy costs totaling $3,269 per resident. With the cooperation of the Anchorage School District, ISER sent out a mail survey with a telephone follow-up to 791 families of new students in the Anchorage School district to find out if and why people are moving to Anchorage, and what the City of Anchorage and Anchorage School District can do to help them.

Cultural Models of Copper River Salmon Ecology

In this project, an interdisciplinary research team of anthropologists, biologists, and Alaska Native partners, is assessing the existence and utility of local and traditional knowledge (LTK) and how it might differ from or resemble scientific knowledge of salmon in a particular ecosystem. LTK is an important source of ecological information; however difficulties remain translating LTK into forms applicable to fishery management. Recent studies conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game demonstrated that Ahtna and fishery managers have different perspectives on the long-term sustainability of the Copper River salmon fishery, which we believe are based on cultural differences and different spatial and temporal orientations. Using consensus analysis methodology we are addressing these differences in order to understand where the knowledge and opinions of LTK holders and fishery scientists/managers converge and diverge on the subject of salmon ecology. This study includes Ahtna, commercial fishers, and fishery scientists/managers. Funding Agency: North Pacific Research Board.

Arctic Observing Network Social Indicators Project

A circumpolar arctic research team under Jack Kruse of ISER is working to understand how the human arctic is changing and to identify drivers of change. To do this, we are first identifying social and economic indicators of change that drive or feed back to arctic physical and biological system changes. We are collecting data on these indicators on a pan-arctic scale and are currently working with colleagues in Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia. The data we are collecting include socioeconomic changes at an intra regional (or county level) in the context of development and industrial activities in fisheries, subsistence, mining, and tourism. Funding Agency: National Science Foundation.

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