David Natcher, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at USask. (Photo: Submitted)

USask recognizes Natcher for community-engaged research

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) is honouring Dr. David Natcher (PhD) with its 2023 Publicly Engaged Scholarship Team Award (PESTA) for research that engages governments, Indigenous groups, companies, and multidisciplinary academics in collaborative efforts to address social, environmental, and economic impacts of resource development.


The award is presented annually to faculty members, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and/or community partners in recognition of collaborative efforts to combine their knowledge and produce outstanding social impacts locally, nationally, or internationally.

Natcher, a cultural anthropologist in the agricultural and resource economics department at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, said he was thrilled with the nomination and grateful for the PESTA award.

“It is a strange award to receive, given that it’s a team and engagement award. If it wasn’t for a host of other people, none of this would have been possible,” he said.

“As an anthropologist I have insights that can make a contribution, but I rely heavily on people who think about the world in different terms. I like working with those people. It makes research fun, and more meaningful to the people who are affected most directly by the things we are trying to study.”

Natcher works on projects with colleagues around the world, but his closest colleagues at USask are at the Canadian Hub for Applied Social Research, with whom he collaborates on all his projects.

“It’s a great example of what is being done at USask. They are an enormous support for researchers, me in particular,” he said.

His research on the impacts of oil and gas development in the Peace River region, in particular an area that spans the British Columbia and Alberta border, as well as his research with the Arctic Council on water, energy, and food security, are two of Natcher’s career highlights since joining USask in 2007.

Treaty 8 First Nations, industry, and the governments of Alberta and B.C., are all part of Natcher’s research team in the Peace River project, which is studying the potentially huge impacts of fracking to develop the Montney Play. This shale gas formation, described as Canada’s largest “carbon bomb,” has the potential to release more than a billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

“Through a recent project, we were able to co-develop a number of scenarios that allow government, Indigenous communities, and industry to work together to evaluate potential negative impacts on First Nations and begin to identify potential mitigation strategies,” Natcher said.

The research motivated a highly productive, non-confrontational dialogue between the parties about moving ahead, and how they continue to live on this landscape together, he said.
“We are really proud of that.”

Natcher is also working with the Arctic Council’s sustainable development working group to research water, energy, and food security. Rather than considering each in isolation, researchers are considering these as an integrated system.

“We found that treating each of these in isolation can have negative impacts. We can grow more food, but what impact does that have on water security, quantity, quality, and energy inputs? So, we are making visible how these systems are connected, and then coming up with strategies for more sustainable Arctic communities.”

Students are an integral component of Natcher’s research. In addition to students from his own department, he tries to draw in as many students as possible from the departments of anthropology, and geography and planning, to expose them to community-based research. He has supervised 19 master’s students, four doctoral candidates and four post-doctoral fellows.

Since joining USask, Natcher has produced 124 refereed journal articles and book chapters, 11 books, and received more than $30 million in external research grants.

In other recent honours, Natcher was named University of the Arctic Research Chair, Water, Energy and Food Security in the Arctic (2022-26), received a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagement (2019), and served as Centennial Research Chair at the Global Institute for Food Security (2014-19).


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