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Ecological calendars to anticipate climate change and Food Security

Oneida Lake section; Karim-Aly Kassam, Madeline Rich, Tamar Law, Hayley Tessler, Iriel Edwards, Alexandra Mantilla, Tamar La, Morgan Ruelle, Leo Louis, Randy Jackson, Lars Rudstam (Funded by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Academic Venture Fund, CBFS)

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 and people in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in collaboration with Chinese, German, and Italian scholars. In October 2021, this project held a high-profile international conference “Rhythm of the Land” in October at the Cornell Botanic Garden with participants from local Native American Nations, from the Inuit Nation in northern Alaska, from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Germany and from the US.  At the conference Leo Louis presented on the Oneida Lake ecological calendar and results were discussed by Charles Parker from the Oneida Lake community.  This conference also included presentations of ecological calendars from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the Sioux Nation, a major art exhibit on anthropogenic climate change by indigenous artists at the Johnson Museum of Art and the Botanic Gardens, presentations from James Ransom, past Chief of the Mohawk Tribe, and a dance performance by Santee Smith. Results of the ecological calendar work was published in 2021 and a special issue is planned for 2022. The work on ecological calendars is now moving towards understanding the role of wild foods for the food security of the communities around Oneida Lake and elsewhere.