Skip to Content
Report an accessibility problem
Shauna BurnSilver

Shauna BurnSilver

Assistant Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Arizona State University
PO Box 872402
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402


  • Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory
  • Assistant Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


I am an environmental anthropologist interested in how changes in the global climate and economic dynamics are affecting relationships between people and the environments they depend on. 

At the core of my work is an examination of social processes, particularly the role of social relationships embedded in networks, which shape households, communities and diverse stakeholder responses to change, in turn affecting livelihoods, well-being and institutional frameworks.  I frame theoretical questions from within Environmental Anthropology, but the majority of my work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, an approach that allows exploration of change dynamics at a range of scales - small and large - critical for addressing complex questions of persistence, vulnerability and resilience within social-ecological systems. 

The perspective that social cohesion matters, and social relationships are a means by which critical resources and information flow between people and organizations is a thread uniting my early work with Maasai pastoralists in Kenya, and more recent collaborations with Arctic communities and policy makers in Alaska and Russia, and utility assistance providers in Urban Phoenix.  In each case social relationships are integral to understanding processes of human-environmental decision-making - how people responded to land tenure transformations (Kenya), the persistence of Arctic mixed economies even as economic conditions change (Alaska), climate change effects on community and international policy networks (Berengia) and the effect of rising temperatures on utility assistance provision for vulnerable groups (Phoenix).

A second theme linking my work is human connections to place, and through this lens, the livelihoods pursued in diverse places. How do different groups describe relationships with their land and resources, Nature (writ large) and the environment?  Do these cultural understandings shape social relationships and human-environment decisions in the short and long terms, and if so - how? This work engages with narratives of "progress", "well-being" and “vulnerability” in the midst of changes. 

Strong collaborations with communities and diverse stakeholders are the foundation of all my work and research.  Methodologically, I combine qualitative and quantitative methodologies, leveraging the strengths of ethnography and quantitative survey research and incorporating unique insights gained from network analysis, traditional ecological knowledge, collaborative science, and agent-based and social-ecological modeling to understand patterns of change - and their implications for people and landscapes now and into the future.  


  • PhD, Human Ecology, Colorado State University, 2007
  • MS, Resource Interpretation, Colorado State University, 1997
  • BA, International Relations, Scripps College, 1987


External Links

Journal Articles


York, A. M., C. Drummond Otten, S. B. BurnSilver, S. L. Neuberg and J. M. Anderies. 2021. Integrating institutional approaches and decision science to address climate change: A multi-level collective action. Current Opinion in Sustainability 62(Oct):19-26. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2021.06.001. (link )


Baggio, J., S. B. BurnSilver, A. Arenas, J. S. Magdanz, G. P. Kofinas and M. De Domenico. 2016. Multiplex social ecological network analysis reveals how social changes affect community robustness more than resource depletion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(48):13708-13713. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1604401113. (link )

Brinkman, T. J., W. D. Hansen, F. S. Chapin III, G. Kofinas, S. BurnSilver and T. S. Rupp. 2016. Arctic communities perceive climate impacts on access as a critical challenge to availability of subsistence resources. Climate Change 139(3):413-427. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-016-1819-6. (link )

BurnSilver, S. 2016. Representing wealth in a changing pastoral economy: A comparison of traditional and new metrics in Maasailand, Kenya. Nomadic People 20(1):8-34. DOI: 10.3197/np.2016.200103. (link )

BurnSilver, S., J. Magdanz, R. Stotts, M. Berman and G. Kofinas. 2016. Are mixed economies persistent or transitional? Evidence using social networks from arctic Alaska. American Anthropologist 118(1):121-129. DOI: 10.1111/aman.12447. (link )

Petrov, A. N., S. BurnSilver, F. S. Chapin III, G. Fondahl, J. Graybill, K. Keil, A. E. Nilsson, R. Riedlsperger and P. Schweitzer. 2016. Arctic sustainability research: Toward a new agenda. Polar Geography 39(3):165-178. DOI: 10.1080/1088937X.2016.1217095. (link )

Reid, R. S., D. Nikedianye, M. Y. Said, D. Kaelo, M. Neselle, O. Makui, L. Onetu, S. Kiruswa, N. Ole Kamuaro, P. Kristjanson, J. Ogutu, S. B. BurnSilver, M. J. Goldman, R. B. Boone, K. A. Galvin, N. M. Dickson and W. C. Clark. 2016. Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(17):4579-4584. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900313106. (link )


Galvin, K. A., T. A. Beeton, R. B. Boone and S. B. BurnSilver. 2015. Nutritional status of Maasai pastoralists under change. Human Ecology 43(3):411-424. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-015-9749-x. (link )


Risvoll, C., G. Fedreheim, A. Sandberg and S. BurnSilver. 2014. Does pastoralists' participation in the management of national parks in northern Norway contribute to adaptive governance?. Ecology and Society 19(2):Art. 71. DOI: 10.5751/ES-06658-190271. (link )


Biggs, R., M. Schluter, D. Biggs, E. L. Bohensky, S. BurnSilver, G. Cundill, V. Dakos, T. M. Daw, L. S. Evans, K. Kotschy, A. M. Leitch, C. Meek, A. Quinlan, C. Raudsepp-Heame, M. D. Robards, M. L. Schoon, L. Schultz and P. C. West. 2012. Toward principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:421-448. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-051211-123836. (link )


Boone, R. B., K. A. Galvin, S. B. BurnSilver, P. K. Thornton, D. S. Ojima and J. R. Jawson. 2011. Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services. Ecololgy and Society 16(2):Art. 6. (link )


Kofinas, G. P., F. S. Chapin III, S. B. BurnSilver, J. I. Schmidt, N. L. Fresco, K. Kielland, S. Martin, A. Springsteen and T. S. Rupp. 2010. Resilience of Athabascan subsistence systems to interior Alaska's changing climate. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40(7):1347-1359. DOI: 10.1139/X10-108. (link )


Thornton, P. K., R. B. Boone, K. A. Galvin, S. B. BurnSilver, M. M. Waithaka, J. Kuyiah, S. Karanja, E. Gonzalez-Estrada and M. Herrero. 2007. Coping strategies in livestock-dependent households in east and southern Africa: A synthesis of four case studies. Human Ecology 35(2):461-476. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-007-9118-5. (link )


Thornton, P. K., S. B. BurnSilver, R. B. Boone and K. A. Galvin. 2006. Modelling the impacts of group ranch subdivision on agro-pastoral households in Kajiado, Kenya. Agricultural Systems 87(3):331-336. DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2005.03.001. (link )


Boone, R. B., S. B. BurnSilver, P. K. Thornton, J. S. Worden and K. A. Galvin. 2005. Quantifying declines in livestock due to land subdivision. Rangeland Ecology & Management 58(5):523-532. (link )

Christensen, L., S. BurnSilver and M. Coughenour. 2005. Integrated assessment of the dynamics, stability and resilience of the Inner Mongolian grazing systems. Nomadic Peoples 9(1/2):131-145. (link )

Book Chapters


Berman, M., G. Kofinas and S. BurnSilver. 2017. Measuring community adaptive and transformative capacity in the Arctic context. Pp. 59-75 In: Fondahl, G. and G. N. Wilson eds., Northern Sustainabilities: Understanding and Addressing Change in the Circumpolar World. Springer International Publishing. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-46150-2_6. ISBN: 978-3-319-46148-9.

BurnSilver, S. B., R. B. Boone, G. P. Kofinas and T. J. Brinkman. 2017. Modeling tradeoffs in a rural Alaska mixed economy: Hunting, working, and sharing in the face of economic and ecological change. Pp. 52-83 In: Hegmon, M. ed., The Give and Take of Sustainability: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives on Tradeoffs. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107078338.


Dakos, V., A. Quinlan, J. A. Baggio, E. M. Bennett, O. Bodin and S. B. BurnSilver. 2015. Principle 2: Manage connectivity. Pp. 80-104 In: Biggs, R., M. Schluter and M. L. Schoon eds., Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems. Cambridge University Press.


BurnSilver, S. B. 2009. Pathways of continuity and change: Maasi livelihoods in Amboseli, Kajiado District, Kenya. Pp. 161-207 In: Homewood, K., P. Kristjanson and P. Chenevix Trench eds., Staying Maasai? Livelihoods, Conservation and Development in East African Rangelands. Vol 5. Springer New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-87492-0_5. ISBN: 978-0-387-87491-3. (link )

Galvin, K. A., R. B. Boone, S. B. BurnSilver and P. K. Thornton. 2009. Humans and wildlife as ecosystem components in integrated assessments. Pp. 129-142 In: Manfredo, M. J., J. J. Vaske, P. J. Brown, D. J. Decker and E. A. Duke eds., Wildlife and Society: The Science of Human Dimensions. Island Press. Washington, DC. ISBN: 978-1597264082.

Serneels, S., M. Herrero, S. B. BurnSilver, P. Chenevix Trench, K. Cochrane, K. Homewood, P. Kristjanson, F. Nelson, M. Radeny, D. M. Thompson and M. Yahya Said. 2009. Methods in the analysis of Maasai livelihoods. Pp. 43-67 In: Homewood, K., P. Kristjanson and P. Chenevix Trench eds., Staying Maasi? Livelihoods, Conservation and Development in East African Rangelands. Vol 5. Springer New York. DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-87492-0_2. ISBN: 978-0-387-87491-3. (link )


Boone, R. B., S. B. BurnSilver and R. S. Kruska. 2008. Comparing landscape and infrastructural heterogeneity within and between ecosystems. Pp. 341-367 In: Galvin, K. A., R. S. Reid, R. H. Behnke Jr and N. T. Hobbs eds., Fragmentationin Semi-Arid and Arid Landscapes: Consequences for Human and Natural Systems. Springer Netherlands. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-4906-4_14. ISBN: 978-1-4020-4905-7. (link )

Boone, R. B., S. B. BurnSilver, J. S. Worden, K. A. Galvin and N. T. Hobbs. 2008. Large-scale movements of large herbivores livestock following changes in seasonal forage supply. Pp. 187-206 In: Van Langevelde F., H. T. ed., Resource Ecology. Vol 23. Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-6850-8_16. (link )

BurnSilver, S. B., J. S. Worden and R. B. Boone. 2008. Processes of fragmentation in the Amboseli ecosystem, southern Kajiado District, Kenya. Pp. 225-253 In: Galvin, K. A., R. S. Reid, R. H. Behnke Jr and N. T. Hobbs eds., Fragmentation in Semi-Arid and Arid Landscapes: Consequences for Human and Natural Systems. Springer Netherlands. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-4906-4_10. ISBN: 978-1-4020-4905-7. (link )


BurnSilver, S. B., R. B. Boone and K. A. Galvin. 2003. Linking pastoralists to a heterogeneous landscape: The case of four Maasi group ranches in Kajiado District, Kenya. Pp. 173-199 In: Fox, J., R. R. Rindfuss, S. J. Walsh and V. Mishra eds., People and the Environment. Springer US. DOI: 10.1007/0-306-48130-8_6. ISBN: 978-1-4020-7322-9. (link )



Anderies, J. M., H. Eakin, M. A. Janssen, C. Redman, A. Barnett, J. Baggio, S. B. BurnSilver, D. Manuel-Navarrete, M. Schoon and S. van der Leeuw. 2014. Resilience thinking in an urbanizing world. Presentation at the Resilience 2014 Resilience and Development: Mobilizing for Transformation, 4-8 May 2014, Le Corum, Montpellier, France. (link )