At the outset, the team will conduct a quantitative and qualitative analysis of what has motivated migration from outer islands of RMI to Majuro, the main population center, and from RMI to the state of Hawai‘i and the continental US.

In line with the research questions, the study addressed two themes that required different research approaches:

1.            Impacts of climate change on ecosystems + society

2.       Migration decisions and impacts of migration

Desk Study

Desk study involves collation, review, and analysis of information that is already available about a topic or place. Information sources include published scientific literature, grey literature, online databases, population censuses, and popular press. These data will be used for two reasons: (i) to describe the context in which Marshallese people make their migration decisions and (ii) to create thematic maps.

  • Migration data: Population census

  • Environmental data: To better understand impacts of climatic stressors on ecosystem services which may act as drivers of migration


Field Methods in Source and Destination Areas:

People-centered, social science methods include: short questionnaires to capture demographic data, Q-method, and life history interviews. These methods will be used to determine to what extent climatic stressors--and their impacts on ecosystems, livelihoods and habitability-- are already driving migration in RMI; the impacts of migration in source and destinations areas; and how migration reasons and consequences vary among different types of respondents.


Geo-spatial data on migration, e.g. at the island level, combined with indicators of climate change and ecosystem services (such as altitude, groundwater, soil, agriculture, salinity, rainfall) will be used to create thematic maps that depict the links between climatic stressors, ecosystems services, and migration patterns.

Our team recorded GPS locations of respondent households. The GPS locations will enable us to link information from the household questionnaire to geospatial data. Through project partner, the Marshall Islands Conservation Society, the project utilizes locally available data that were gathered as part of the Reimaanlok process.


While we do not expect that the experience of the Marshallese will necessarily predict the behavior of all other US-Affiliated Pacific Islanders (USAPI), the research model we are piloting may be transferable to other nation-states or territories within the USAPI.