April 26, 2022

Michael Spencer, UW Presidential Term Professor in Social Work at the UW School of Social Work, is part of a transdisciplinary team that received an Innovation Grant from UW EarthLab.

Spencer joins team member and project principal investigator Derek Jennings, UW School of Public Health, and community partner John Sirois, traditional territories advisor to the Confederated Colville Tribal Reservation. Drawing from Jennings’ expertise with photovoice, a community-based visual research tool, the team will work closely with the Colville Nation, which has identified climate change as a factor affecting its traditional ways of life.

In the project, called Hunting for Healing, researchers will study how climate change might be affecting traditional food customs and hunting practices, which is then impacting overall tribal health and social justice. The team will identify and map Colville traditional territories and food sources which will help determine how food access is being shaped by climate change.

Hunting for Healing will provide a basis for future land and health interventions, including the need for food sovereignty, in tracking and revitalizing traditional foods. The results may apply to other tribal nations which are also seeing a shift in traditional food practices.

Spencer is known for his research on health and wellness among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, with a specialty on interventions to promote health through Indigenous practices and values. He serves as the co-chair for the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare's Closing the Health Gap Grand Challenge.

Hunting for Healing is one of six research projects selected by UW EarthLab for funding in 2022. Each team was asked to propose research that would help solve complex challenges at the intersection of climate change and social justice which will make a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. The grants are up to $75,000 per team.