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New Project: Ecological calendars to anticipate climate change

Karim-Aly Kassam (PI), Adnan Akyuz (North Dakota State University), Art DeGaetano, Christopher Dunn, Randy Jackson, Amanda Rodewald, Lars Rudstam, Morgan Ruelle, David Wolfe (Funded by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Academic Venture Fund) 

This project will develop ecological calendars as a source of anticipatory capacity for climate change at the scale of community. Ecological calendars are systems to keep track of time based on observation of weather, plants, and animals. Seasonal events – such as the nascence of a flower, the emergence of an insect, the arrival of a migratory bird, the movement of fish, or the breakup of lake ice – may serve as more reliable indicators of seasonal change than counting of days based on the position of the sun, moon, and stars. Indigenous and other place-based ecological knowledge of seasonal indicators has enabled communities to coordinate their activities with the rest of their ecosystems. By integrating such knowledge with cutting-edge science, the project will develop ecological calendars that anticipate trends and variability resulting from global climate change. 

As a participatory action research project, the research will be designed and implemented in partnership with fishing and farming communities in the Oneida Lake Basin, as well as Dakota and Lakota First Nations in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation of North and South Dakota. Two interns, including one at Sitting Bull Tribal College and another based at CBFS, will contribute to field research, including focus groups, semi-structured interviews, archival research, and phenological analysis of biological collections. 

Ecological calendar research in Oneida Lake and Standing Rock will serve as a proof of concept for similar projects in the rest of the world. In March 2016, the research team received an additional 1.2 million Euros from the Belmont Forum to conduct further research on ecological calendars in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan, China, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, in collaboration with Chinese, German, and Italian scholars. Both projects will culminate in a high-profile international conference focused on the role of ecological calendars to building anticipatory capacity for anthropogenic climate change and variability.