Looking at the Sky, Listening to the Sea: Customary Environmental Knowledge, Climate Change in the Pacific and Connections of Atmosphere, Oceans, Species and People


Event details

SSGM Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 06 November 2018


Lecture Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU


Chels Marshall



The Pacific Ocean is the largest single geographic feature on our planet. It represents half of the world’s oceanic area, occupies one-third of the earth’s surface and helps support hundreds of millions of people. It essentially is the driving force of the earth’s climate and the storeroom of complex ecosystems and marine biodiversity which have evolved in relative isolation. The Pacific Ocean supports an array of ocean based indigenous cultures, economies and global food resources.

Traditional calendars in the Pacific can be understood as the seasonal frames of reference by which different communities organise their relations to the surrounding land, sea and climate. The calendars tend to follow seasonal solar variations and are based on interconnections between people and observation of their environment. This knowledge contributes to climate science by offering observations and interpretations at a much finer spatial scale with considerable temporal depth and by highlighting elements that may not be considered by climate scientists.

Seasonal change has a significant role in cultural existence and the means of how people relate and utilise their environment. It is a variable that shows forms of adaptation and resilience that are distinct from western forms of land/sea use and appreciation. This doctorate seeks to advance our understanding of a key issue in resource management in multi-cultural context – what are the most effective strategies for realizing the benefits of indigenous approaches to sustainable resource use in the era of climate change? To fully understand this issue, we will examine the relationship of diverse forms of indigenous knowledge, to each other and to global western scientific approaches, either in partnered co-management, or distinctively.

The cultural artistic documentation and synthesis of people, environment and species will be undertaken; this component forms the holistic approach to the research by giving the subject a place. In a culturally sensitive manner, with support from the communities, it is proposed to portray the key elements of traditional ecological knowledge in a “digital storytelling” framework.

About the Speaker

Chels Marshall is a PhD Candidate with the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University

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