ISER’s Jennifer Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Management and Policy, is working with researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Center for Energy and Power and College of Engineering and Mines to examine food, energy and water (FEW) security issues in rural Alaska and determine how small-scale renewable energy might ease the issues.

Called MicroFEWS, the project is funded through a 3.5-year, $2.4M National Science Foundation grant. A new website and blog have been developed to engage rural communities including Kongiganak, Tanana, Cordova and Igiugig to evaluate local priorities, collect data, and develop appropriate energy distribution models.

“Integrating social science with engineering is an important part of the research project,” says Schmidt, who uses her extensive experience in rural Alaska to help link societal energy and water needs with engineering solutions.MicroFEWs logo

Schmidt is also coauthor of a study published in the journal Environmental Engineering Science that looks at FEW security issues in Cordova through an energy lens. The study uses information Schmidt gathered during her visits to Cordova, information that was also used to develop conceptual maps of FEW within Cordova.

The paper introduces an approach that may help remote communities in Alaska make informed decisions about the use of renewable energy to increase FEW security. In Cordova, the project specifically looks at improving food security through potential changes to powering the community’s fish processing industry.

Schmidt’s co-authors on MicroFEWS paper include Erin Whitney, Bill Schnabel, Srijan Aggarwal, Daisy Huang, Richard Wies and Justus Karenzi, who all work within the College of Engineering and Mines, UAA’s Aaron Dotson, and Henry Huntington of Huntington Consulting.