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, population change, and environment. A key professional goal is that my scholarship will help to understand and promote rural community sustainability. I am very interested in community engaged scholarship in collaboration with communities on projects related to social and environmental sustainability, and have led and collaborated on several such projects on various topics of community interest from arts and community development to community solar. 

My current research is mostly focused in these three areas:

Social Vulnerability to Wildfire. This collaborative project with the US Forest Service examines demographic characteristics that increase peoples' vulnerability to wildfire. We are generating indices of vulnerability that are specific to wildfire and mapping these patterns in relation to biophysical wildfire risk. We aim to create tools and information that are helpful to forest managers, planners, and emergency responders to identify communities and neighborhoods where risk mitigation is most needed and to evaluate equity in the distribution of fuel treatments, risk reduction, and mitigation programs. 

Changes to Migration in Rural America with Covid-19. This project investigates how migration patterns have changed with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, how changes vary across space and over time, and what this means for rural communities.  This work is in collaboration with Julia Petersen (PhD student). 

Age-Specific Net Migration Patterns for US Counties. This project creates a dataset of net migration estimates by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for every county in the U.S. 2010-2020. 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. Colleagues and I have 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

I serve on the US Census Bureau's Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC).

I lead a summer study away program to Costa Rica focused on Sustainability. Let me know if you are interested in coming with us! 

In my personal life, I love hiking, playing and coaching volleyball, skiing and exploring all the Keweenaw has to offer with my family and friends.

Areas of Expertise

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