Rural sociology professor chosen for Roy C. Buck Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Brian Thiede, assistant professor of rural sociology, received the 2016-17 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award for his paper, "Climate variability and inter-provincial migration in South America, 1970-2011."

The Roy C. Buck Award is intended to honor and recognize an untenured, tenure-track faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences whose research involves the social or human sciences for the best refereed article published in a scholarly journal in the previous two years. The award includes a $2,500 stipend and plaque. Thiede will be recognized on March 30 at a ceremony hosted by Gamma Sigma Delta.

Co-authors on the paper are Clark Gray, associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Valerie Mueller, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

In the paper, which was published in the journal Global Environmental Change, the authors found that climate change may be associated with population shifts to urban areas. They examined over 21 million census records from eight South American countries over almost four decades and found that extreme temperatures seem to affect migration to urban areas more than rural areas. Furthermore, people who fall into certain demographics, such as women and adults with low education levels, are more likely to migrate as a result of extreme temperatures.

"There have recently been a number of high-quality studies of climate impacts on migration, but they tend to be narrow in geographic scope," said Thiede. "This is one of the first studies to examine the link between climate change and migration using harmonized data from multiple countries over a long period of time."

Researchers view changing human migration patterns as an important social impact of climate change that is likely to increase in frequency and scale as global temperatures continue to rise. Studies like the one published by Thiede may play an important role in predicting where, when and why humans will migrate as well as effects of climate change on other issues, such as nutrition and food security.

"Understanding how changes in climate and temperature can affect populations across the world is an important aspect of the agricultural sciences," said Gary Thompson, dean of research in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "In the college, we encourage faculty to examine global issues and commend Dr. Thiede for performing this important and timely research."

Thiede's research focuses on the demographic impacts of environmental change, as well as poverty and inequality around the world. He was a professor of sociology at Louisiana State University before joining the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education at Penn State in 2016.

In addition to his work in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Thiede is a research associate for Penn State's Population Research Institute  and has a courtesy affiliation with the Department of Sociology and Criminology. He earned a doctoral and a master's degree in developmental sociology from Cornell University and a bachelor's degree in international relations from Bucknell University.

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Last Updated March 03, 2017