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Ecological calendars to anticipate climate change

Karim-Aly Kassam, Madeline Rich, Tamar Law, Leo Louis, 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 is developing ecological calendars as a means of building of anticipatory capacity for climate change at the scale of community. Ecological calendars are systems to keep track of time-based 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. This participatory action research project is 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. During 2016, Tamar Law was based at CBFS and undertook semi-structured interviews. In 2017, Madeline Rich continued this work at CBFS. 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, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in collaboration with Chinese, German, and Italian scholars. In 2018, validation of research findings was undertaken in each community in the Pamir Mountains and at Standing Rock. In 2019, validation of research findings was undertaken at Lake Oneida and graduate student Leo Louis presented his results as a department seminar on campus.  Both projects will culminate in a high-profile international conference on October 1st and 2nd, 2020 at Cornell University. The conference will present research findings including revised ecological calendars, and have a major art exhibit on anthropogenic climate change by indigenous artists at the Johnson Museum of Art and the Botanic Gardens.