Dr. Chapin, is an ecosystem ecologist whose research addresses the sustainability of ecosystems and human communities in a rapidly changing planet. His work emphasizes the impacts of climate change on Alaskan ecology, subsistence resources, and indigenous communities, as a basis for developing climate-change adaptation plans.
The central focus of his research is the study of the resilience of regional systems in the face of directional changes in climate, economics, and culture. He believes this is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity: How do we sustain the desirable features of Earth’s ecosystems and society at a time of rapid changes in all of the major forces that govern their properties? This requires an understanding of the mechanisms that tend to maintain the system in its current state versus factors that cause changes to a new state. It also requires an integration of natural and social sciences because many of the drivers of change involve social-ecological interactions.