Jessica K. Graybill

Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 


Jessica K. Graybill is an Associate Professor of Geography at Colgate University, where she also teaches in the Russian & Eurasian Studies Program. The focus of her research is on coupled human and natural systems in urban settings and in the Russian Far North. With students, she works to understand emerging cultural and environmental resiliency in post-industrial Utica, NY, due to the influx of former refugees into this shrinking city. In ongoing research in the Russian Far East, she investigates the human responses to environmental change due to sociopolitical transformation, natural resource extraction, and climate change.


Resource Mobility and Flow in, through and out of the Russian Far East: Understanding Socionatural Systems in Multi-Harvest Resource Spaces

The Russian Far East has been conceptualized as a resource periphery throughout history. With low human population density and archipelago population centers, this region is perceived as a space of resource abundance by indigenous groups, Soviet newcomers and, today, transnational actors extracting the region’s most valuable resources: salmon, minerals (gold, platinum) and hydrocarbons (coal, oil, gas). Each of these resources relies on freshwater systems differently: salmon require unpolluted, intact watercourses for reproduction cycles, and mineral and hydrocarbon development relies on water use for extraction and watercourses for transportation. Movement of people and resources in, through and out of this region occurs largely through riverine and marine waterways. Thus, water connects communities, industries and natural resources, creating a hybrid socio-natural system. Focusing on mobility of human and natural actors via water systems allows for greater understanding of how people, ideas and resources flow from and connect between local to global places. Here, I explore how local-global freshwater connections and flows transform Sakhalin Island and Kamchatka Peninsula in the era of post-Soviet transformation, focusing on how extractive development projects threaten freshwater resources and courses, leading indigenous groups and newcomers to perceive decreasing water quality and envision future scarcity of subsistence resources (e.g., salmon). In some places, this leads to localized misuse and/or overharvest of freshwater resources, in turn leading industry to perceive a local lack of environmental concern regarding freshwater resources. Increased communication regarding regional transformations will hopefully lead to better land-water use decisions among all stakeholders in the region.