Nav: Home

A 'back to the future' approach to taking action on climate change

March 18, 2014

How can communities dodge future disasters from Mother Nature before she has dealt the blow? Researchers are taking a unique approach to the issue and gaining input and support from community stakeholders. Daniel Murphy, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of anthropology, will present findings on March 20, at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) in Albuquerque, N.M.

The presentation reveals an innovative, interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability that's called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building (MISB). The project focuses on two geographic case studies: Big Hole Valley in Montana - a high-altitude ranching valley - and Grand County in Colorado - a resort community west of Denver and south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The researchers conducted a series of one-on-one interviews at those sites to get an array of community contributors thinking and planning for future ecological hazards, and to consider the impact of those decisions.

The researchers posed three scenarios involving future drastic climate changes. The one-on-one interviews involved around 30 people for each region, ranging from ranchers to teachers, small business owners, hunting guides, county planners and representatives from federal and state agencies. Ecologists on the research team would then predict the impact of the suggested planning.

The three possible scenarios were:
  • Some Like it Hot - Describes years and years of consistent summer drought.

  • The Seasons, They're a-Changing - Describes changes in seasonality, such as significantly increased rainfall in the spring.

  • Feast or Famine - Describes big swings in temperature and precipitation between years.
"Areas like the Big Hole depend on snow to irrigate their hayfields," explains Murphy, "so little snowfall could pose a big problem. Not only does it affect their hay crop, but in a region with the Arctic Grayling, a candidate for endangered listing, the water shortage would affect wildlife. Because of these scenarios, more groups were open to conservation efforts. All community interests were able to see the benefits of conservation efforts."

Murphy says scenarios to remove or shrink grazing allotments for ranchers were also big concerns, since ranchers would turn to grazing allotments to offset the effect of drought on herds.

"Flood irrigation, for example, has environmental impacts that are really, really good. So, we looked at the impact of stopping flood irrigation and switching to center pivot irrigation. It could rob the groundwater, it would evaporate off the soil and it wouldn't go back into the river, so river levels would go down and stress the fish. So in examining that scenario, ranchers could see how this feeds back and that's the iteration," says Murphy.

Murphy adds that one of the major concerns in Grand County, Colo., is also water, because much of the snow melt there feeds into a lake that's a reservoir for Denver's water.

"Ranchers, irrigators and home owners are concerned about rising water prices if there is less snow, so that was a conflict that seemed to emerge there."

Murphy says that in both Grand County and Big Hole Valley, the second scenario was perceived as an opportunity, because despite any temperature increases or other issues, it involved continuous rain in the spring.

Murphy is now exploring climate vulnerability in Ohio's Appalachia near the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio, where he says future flooding could pose a threat.

"A lot of research in this area tends to focus on past vulnerability or past adaptation, and from my perspective, that's come and gone. The real opportunities lie in the future, and we're examining how city planners, urban planners and extension agents can utilize our research in future decision-making," says Murphy.
-end-
Funding for the project was supported by the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. The interdisciplinary project involved the expertise of anthropologists, conservation social scientists, ecologists and a hydrologist.

Co-researchers on the project are Laurie Yung, associate professor of natural resource social science, University of Montana; Carina Wyborn, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Montana and visiting fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; and Daniel Williams, research social scientist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

The SFAA promotes interdisciplinary research in addressing issues affecting human beings around the world. The destinations theme of the spring conference focuses on transience and mobility.

UC's Department of Anthropology in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) is involved in active field research stretching from Madagascar to Mongolia. Its emphasis on research and teaching covers bioevolutionary approaches to health, ecosystem dynamics and forms of social inequality.

University of Cincinnati

Related Anthropology Articles:

AAA extends partnership with Wiley
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) today renewed its publishing agreement with Wiley, continuing a decade long partnership.
Boosting communication is key in managing menopause
A University of Delaware student and faculty member have reviewed previous studies about how women manage menopause symptoms and found that they frequently use alternative treatments.
Walker receives Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award
Alan Walker, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Biology was awarded the Charles R.
The taming of the rat
If you worry about having a pet rat in case it bites you, then you can relax.
OU center examines how genomic information impacts medical care of Native Americans
A University of Oklahoma Center on American Indian and Alaska Native Genomic Research will examine the impact of genomic information on American Indian and Alaska Native communities and health care systems.
Nature vs. nurture? Both are important, anthropologist argues
Evolutionary science stresses the contributions biology makes to our behavior.
Production of butter from shea trees in West Africa pushed back 1,000 years
University of Oregon anthropologists have pushed back the history of harvesting shea trees in West Africa by more than 1,000 years earlier than previously believed.
Research reveals connections between social science and high fashion
The presentation will be featured this month at the world's largest gathering of anthropologists.
Emotionally supportive relationships linked to lower testosterone
Science and folklore alike have long suggested that high levels of testosterone can facilitate the sorts of attitudes and behavior that make for, well, a less than ideal male parent.
The challenges for anthropologists when they're the expert in the courtroom
A national presentation and discussion will examine the intellectual, practical and ethical challenges for anthropologists when they're hired to serve as expert witnesses.

Related Anthropology Reading:

Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction
by Peter Just (Author)

"If you want to know what anthropology is, look at what anthropologists do," write the authors of Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. This engaging overview of the field combines an accessible account of some of the discipline's guiding principles and methodology with abundant examples and illustrations of anthropologists at work.

Peter Just and John Monaghan begin by discussing anthropology's most important contributions to modern thought: its investigation of culture as a distinctively human characteristic, its doctrine of cultural... View Details


Anthropology For Dummies
by Cameron M. Smith (Author), Evan T. Davies (Contributor)

Covers the latest competing theories in the field

Get a handle on the fundamentals of biological and cultural anthropology

When did the first civilizations arise? How many human languages exist? The answers are found in anthropology - and this friendly guide explains its concepts in clear detail. You'll see how anthropology developed as a science, what it tells us about our ancestors, and how it can help with some of the hot-button issues our world is facing today.

Discover:

How anthropologists learn about the past Humanity's earliest activities,... View Details


Anthropology (Quick Study Academic)
by Inc. BarCharts (Author)

Defines the most important aspects of various forms of anthropology, including archeology, cultural and biological anthropology.

For students studying anthropology; most helpful for those in introductory anthropology.

View Details


The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
by Ellen Meloy (Author)

In this invigorating mix of natural history and adventure, artist-naturalist Ellen Meloy uses turquoise—the color and the gem—to probe deeper into our profound human attachment to landscape.

From the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Bahamas to her home ground on the high plateaus and deep canyons of the Southwest, we journey with Meloy through vistas of both great beauty and great desecration. Her keen vision makes us look anew at ancestral mountains, turquoise seas, and even motel swimming pools. She introduces us to Navajo “velvet... View Details


Anthropology (13th Edition)
by Carol R. Ember (Author), Melvin R. Ember (Author), Peter N. Peregrine (Author)

Anthropology, provides its readers with a comprehensive and scientific introduction to the four fields of anthropology.  It helps them understand humans in all their variety, and why such variety exists.  This new thirteenth edition places an increased emphasis on immigration, migration and globalization.  It also showcases how anthropological skill sets can be applied beyond academia. View Details


Anthropology: What Does It Mean to be Human? 3rd edition
by Robert H. Lavenda (Author), Emily A. Schultz (Author)

A unique alternative to more traditional, encyclopedic introductory texts, Anthropology: What Does It Mean to Be Human?, Third Edition, takes a question-oriented approach that incorporates cutting-edge theory and new ways of looking at important contemporary issues such as power, human rights, and inequality. With a total of sixteen chapters, this engaging, full-color text is an ideal one-semester overview that delves deep into anthropology without overwhelming students. View Details


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari (Author)

New York Times Bestseller

A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the... View Details


Anthropology (14th Edition)
by Carol R. Ember (Author), Melvin R. Ember (Author), Peter N. Peregrine (Author)

Explains how and why human cultures vary so greatly across space and time

 

Anthropology, provides students with a comprehensive and scientific introduction to the holistic four fields of anthropology and the important role of applied anthropology. Readers will understand humans in all their variety, and why such variety exists. It also show students how anthropological skill sets can be applied beyond academia. The fourteenth edition places an increased... View Details


Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist
by William R. Maples (Author), Michael Browning (Author)

From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, prominent forensic anthropologist Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.  In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases of conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Vietnam MIAs to the mysterious deaths of President Zachary Taylor and the family of Czar Nicholas II. View Details


How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human
by Eduardo Kohn (Author)

Can forests think? Do dogs dream? In this astonishing book, Eduardo Kohn challenges the very foundations of anthropology, calling into question our central assumptions about what it means to be human—and thus distinct from all other life forms. Based on four years of fieldwork among the Runa of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, Eduardo Kohn draws on his rich ethnography to explore how Amazonians interact with the many creatures that inhabit one of the world’s most complex ecosystems. Whether or not we recognize it, our anthropological tools hinge on those capacities that make us distinctly human.... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."