Richelle L. Winkler

Richelle L. Winkler


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  • Professor of Sociology and Demography, Social Sciences
  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
  • MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004
  • BA, University of South Carolina, 1999


I am a multidisciplinary scholar operating at the intersections of sociology, demography, geography, community development, and applied social science.  My research is focused on spatial inequality, including patterns of residential segregation and distributions of social and environmental resources. My primary topic of study has been rural communities and especially relationships between community development, internal migration, and resource distribution. A key professional goal is that my scholarship will help to understand and promote rural community sustainability.

The research projects I engage with tend to be either demographic in nature or to focus on community and environmental sociology or both. For example, my research team created a dataset of net migration by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for every county in the U.S. 2000-2010. The data can be downloaded from a public website that allows for interactive mapping and chart-making to show patterns each decade back to the 1950s. See Colleagues and I have since analyzed these data to understand how net migration by age and race have contributed to racial segregation over time (see Moving toward Integration?) and to understand how patterns of migration vary across different types of rural communities

Another set of my scholarship investigates how cohort effects contribute to changing patterns of hunter and angler participation over time and across space. This has critical implications for conservation policy, given that license sales and excise taxes are primary funding mechanisms and hunting and fishing are key ways that people engage with the natural world. This work has been supported by state departments of natural resources and by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Check out our reports, maps, and data from our work on angler demographic change.

I am very interested in community engaged scholarship in collaboration with communities on projects related to social and environmental sustainability. This work has motivated my developing interest in just energy transitions in rural communities- what are the challenges and opportunities for rural communities to transition to more sustainable energy sources and infrastructure that supports inclusive rural community development? I was involved in the creation of the Houghton county Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), and recent academic work combines my demographic expertise with emerging solar technologies to explore the economic feasibility for residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to get off the grid with solar-hybrid systems. A new collaborative project is investigating the feasibility of developing a community solar system in L'anse, MI. In another example, I've been working on a long-term partnership with Main Street Calumet to understand topics ranging from how the community's First Friday art tours impact community development to exploring the feasibility of tapping into minewater for geothermal energy. My Communities and Research course (SS 4700) engages in these projects, and collaborative reports written by students and community members are available here for public download

In my personal life, I love hiking, playing and coaching volleyball, cross country skiing, canoeing, and watching sports (especially Badger basketball).

Areas of Expertise

  • Rural Sociology
  • Population and Environment
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Community Engaged Scholarship
  • Internal Migration
  • GIS and spatial analysis