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New Director

Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center names new director Tom Thornton

ACRC is pleased to announce the appointment of Tom Thornton as ACRC Director as of April 11, 2021. He will also serve as Professor of Environment and Society on UAS faculty. Thornton has served as Dean and Vice Provost since July 2018 and as Interim Co-Director of the Rainforest Center since August 2020, alongside Research Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Jason Fellman. 

As Interim Co-Director, Thornton has integrated with the ACRC team and convened a strategic visioning session with over 30 stakeholders as well as current and former leadership, staff, and researchers to gather input on ACRC’s research priorities, organizational structure, and metrics for success.

tom thornton headshot"I have a vision for the ACRC as an academic and skills hub for understanding and responding to changing climatic conditions and ecosystem dynamics in the Pacific coastal temperate rainforest. By acting as a vital node within a larger network of scientific partners, agencies and communities, ACRC can address both local community and broader regional needs," said Thornton.

Fellman will continue working with Thornton through this transitional period over the next few months. “We look forward to the vision that Tom brings to this role. His knowledge of the university system, research experience, and relationships with local entities will be an asset to ACRC as we move into our next chapter,” said Fellman.

Prior to serving as the UAS Dean of Arts and Sciences, Thornton was a professor and senior research fellow at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom where he directed the Environmental Change Institute”s MSc program in the School of Geography and the Environment. Thornton earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Washington.

Thornton’s academic, Tribal, and agency connections will broaden ACRC’s partnerships throughout Southeast Alaska. In his research, he has worked closely with many Southeast Alaska Tribes and organizations, including Sealaska Heritage Institute, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and the Southeast Native Subsistence Commission.

"Having carried out collaborative research on environmental change and social-ecological systems at the community and regional level on both sides of the Pacific with a wide range of partners, I look forward to expanding the ACRC’s focus on these issues and other challenges we’re facing in the North Pacific. I am very fortunate and excited to be working with such a talented and dedicated team at ACRC.” said Thornton.

We look forward to Thornton’s leadership in carrying out our mission of linking land, sea, and society through integrative coastal research.