Hua Qin, associate professor of environmental and resource sociology/demography in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Division of Applied Social Sciences (DASS), is part of a multidisciplinary, multi-institution research team that was recently awarded the National Excellence in Multistate Research Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This prestigious and highly competitive award recognizes scientists who conduct exemplary research and outreach efforts across multiple states and in doing so enhance the visibility of USDA multistate programs. The team was awarded the Western Region Excellence in Research Award this summer.
The project, known as W4001: Social, Economic and Environmental Causes and Consequences of Demographic Change in Rural America, conducts research on the most pressing demographic, economic, social and environmental challenges faced by rural communities in the United States. Rural areas make up 72 percent of the nation’s land area, house 46 million people, and are essential to agriculture, natural resources, recreation, and environmental sustainability. These areas are constantly changing, and many face challenges such as limited access to healthcare, education, broadband Internet, and jobs. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted how such challenges can lead to major disruptions to the environmental, economic, social and physical wellbeing of rural communities. The team’s findings have contributed to numerous local, state and national policies that support rural sustainability and well-being.
The team includes 39 investigators across 28 colleges and universities spanning all regions of the U.S. In just the last three years, the group has produced hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, developed numerous public briefs, secured over $13 million in research funding, led workshops for community organizations, delivered more than 200 presentations to stakeholders (including the U.S. Congress and the National Institutes of Health), and consulted for experts in multiple state and federal agencies. Matthew Foulkes, associate professor of geography at MU, also contributed to the project.
Qin is an environmental and resource social scientist with emphasis on human population dynamics and sustainable development. He has been an official member of this multistate research team since 2014. Qin’s interdisciplinary training and research experience focus on analyzing social and cultural aspects of natural resources and environmental systems. His specialties include population (migration) and the environment; vulnerability and adaptation; community and natural resources; and research methods and data.
“We feel really excited about the national excellence award as this is the first time it has been given to a social science multistate project,” Qin said. “The award is a nice endorsement of the intellectual and applied values of rural demographic research.”
The group received their award at the APLU/USDA national award ceremony, which took place virtually on Oct. 28.