Individuals have distinct roles within communities in the development of adaptive responses to environmental change. We articulate the phenomenon of different roles, or agent types, that people take in initiating, supporting, or opposing collective organization in remote, resource dependent communities. Based on both participant observations and interviews in Seward Peninsula communities, we categorize agents into three broad types: "initiators" or alpha (α) agents, "supporters" or beta (β) agents, and "opportunists" or gamma (γ) agents. Using semi-structured interviews with community members, we identified the primary agent type of individuals in the context of community responses to environmental changes affecting local water resources. Respondents were asked a series of questions that measured their perception of the quality and quantity of local water sources and their perception of change in those water sources. Community resilience for each of the five study communities was measured using the Arctic Water Resources Vulnerability Index. Significant relationships existed by agent type for perception of river water quality, perception of river water availability, perception of change in river water quality, and perception of change in river water availability. The results support the idea that community resilience at local scales is significantly influenced by agent types and the way agents perceive changes in local water resources—change in water resources is perceived differently based on the type of agent and their collective knowledge base. Communities in which initiators of change (α agents) represent a greater proportion of the population appear to be more resilient than communities in which they are a lesser proportion and in which there is a greater proportion of opportunists (γ agents). The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of community adaptation to environmental change.

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