Insight Into the Pandemic

Faculty Research on the Impact of COVID-19

While the University offers a network of resources to foster academic success for virtual and remote learning, fellow students have been an invaluable asset in navigating uncertain times. In the third semester of pandemic-era college life, student clubs and teams continue to find safe and creative ways to stay connected, give back to the community, and cheer each other on.

“Humboldt in the Time of COVID” is a multidisciplinary collection of oral histories that chronicle the unprecedented events of the past year. The stories will become part of a “living archive” in Humboldt State University Library’s Special Collections that documents experiences of the local community during the pandemic.

Wildlife Professor Daniel Barton conducted a survey about approaches to remote learning and fieldwork in the natural sciences. “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Field Instruction and Remote Teaching Alternatives” was published in the journal “Ecology and Evolution” last fall. By surveying faculty from around the country, Barton compiled instructors’ experiences with online teaching for natural science disciplines traditionally taught in the field.

In the Department of Social Work, Professor Jennifer Maguire conducted research on how the pandemic has impacted students’ ability to meet their basic needs with a focus on food insecurity and homelessness. Her preliminary data suggests that campus may be a stabilizing and protective factor, so for students who were displaced by the pandemic, the struggle intensified.

Since last Spring, the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC) has been working on the “cold chain” needed to keep COVID-19 vaccines and test samples at the right temperatures. Currently, the team is developing a tool to support low- and middle-income countries in upgrading their cold chains to enable COVID-19 vaccination, while limiting emissions and supporting community resilience. These projects are supported by funding from the World Bank/ESMAP and are part of SERC’s ongoing research at the nexus of energy and public health.

Psychology Professor Amber Gaffney conducted research about the connections between social isolation, conspiratorial thinking, and resistance to COVID-19 protocols. Her experiments and surveys suggest that existential self-uncertainty, brought on by feelings of isolation during the pandemic, may encourage conspiratorial thinking and anti-mask sentiment despite the demonstrated effectiveness of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the Department of Economics, professors Erick Eschker and William Fisher worked with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority to evaluate changes in electricity usage in Humboldt County during the pandemic. They found that last Spring’s shelter-in-place order led to an immediate drop in total electricity use but residential electricity use increased overall.