Jerry Jacka
Faculty: Cultural Anthropology

Contact Professor Jacka

As an environmental anthropologist, I am interested in studying the diverse ways that humans and their environments influence one another. Broadly, my work examines the intersection of economic development, the environment, and livelihood sustainability. A major question driving my research is: How do people collectively respond to risks, hazards, and disruptions in their societies and environments? I am currently exploring this topic in two areas: highlands Papua New Guinea and southwestern Colorado.

My research in the Porgera valley, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea has looked at the impacts of the world-class Porgera Gold Mine on the Ipili, Enga, and Huli people and their ecological knowledge and resource management practices. In addition to the selected publications below, my book, Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area, by Duke University Press in 2015, addresses these issues.

My most recent project in southwestern Colorado examines the multitudinous ways that communities and regions reshape their social, economic, and environmental landscapes in the wake of mine closure and the on-going impacts of environmental pollution from abandoned mine lands. Throughout the American West, former mining communities and landscapes have been transformed from sites of production into sites of consumption, especially in terms of recreation and outdoor activities, due to their locations in areas of natural scenic beauty. At the same time, many of these communities are surrounded by legacy mines, many of which were abandoned well before the modern era of environmental regulation and reclamation. Acid mine drainage and the loading of toxic metals into streams constitute a complex set of problems that most of these communities face. My research seeks to understand how communities, non-governmental organizations, and governmental institutions coalesce to resolve these complex social-ecological problems.

Prospective Graduate Students

My current graduate students are involved in environmental anthropology projects that span the globe. While I do not insist that my students do similar work to me, I am most interested in students who study environmental topics. For an overview of my current students’ work, please visit my Environmental Anthropology Lab page on my website.

If you are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. or MA with me please contact me via email at jerry.jacka at colorado.edu. I encourage you to read some of my publications before contacting me to better articulate your goals in pursuing a graduate education with my research interests. I especially encourage you to come to Boulder for an in-person visit to see the department and university and to talk more in depth about your intended project.