Richelle L. Winkler

Richelle L. Winkler


  • 906-487-1886
  • AOB 217 (Spring 23' Office Hours Wednesdays 9:30-11:30am)

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  • Professor of Sociology and Demography, Social Sciences
  • Social Sciences Undergraduate Studies Director
  • 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.

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. We're currently working to extend this to include 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. 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.  I'm currently working a project with Julia Petersen (PhD student) about how covid-19 has changed migration patterns across rural America.

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 work in just energy transitions- 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 am currently a co-Investigator on the Michigan Community and Anishinaabe Renewable Energy Sovereignty project.  Another good example is a recent collaborative project that led to a community solar system in L'anse, MI.

I am currently advising the following student projects:

  • Jennifer Rachels, PhD student, Blue Collar Jobs in a Green Economy
  • Julia Petersen, PhD student, Pandemic Migration in Rural America
  • Maia Madrid, PhD student, Just Energy Transition in Rural America
  • Cindy Pindral, MS student, Improving Energy Efficiency at MTU's Student Development Complex
  • Olivia Ghormley, MS student, Perspectives on New Wilderness Area Designations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I serve on the US Census Bureau's Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC) and am convenor of its working group on Differential Privacy.

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