NSF sponsored Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference, Eagle Hill, Maine.

October 15th-18th 2009


Workshop Community Statement

Tom McGovern has produced a Eagle Hill Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference Report and Community Statement. This was circulated amongst the conference participants for comments and suggestions and is now available here.

Humboldt Field Research Institute, Eagle Hill Maine

This workshop was hosted by the Humboldt Field Research Institute, Eagle Hill, Maine. The Eagle Hill Foundation works closely with the Humboldt Field Research Institute, sharing facilities and working together on developing a retreat style study and meeting facility on the summit of Eagle Hill. The Eagle Hill Foundation also publish The Journal of the North Atlantic.

Workshop Introduction

This workshop is envisaged as the first in a series of NSF meetings aimed at harvesting some of the interdisciplinary experience accumulated in the last few years, and if we can produce some positive results and useful products from the initial meeting we have been encouraged to proceed further and to consider more working meetings with more collaborators. This may be a particularly timely moment for such a gathering given the major increases in NSF funding in the current federal budget, and the oncoming NSF initiatives in climate change. We are of course still limited by available space, funds, and the constraints of an interactive workshop format, but we intend to begin an active discussion that has the potential to include more investigators, teams, and world areas.

The main purpose of this initial workshop is to begin a global (especially North-South) interactive discussion of human ecodynamics operating in different areas (and on different time scales) with the objective of getting a better comparative handle on the interaction of climate change, human environmental impacts, and human-human interaction (politics, proto-globalization etc.). The main focus will not be so much about wiggle matching and global climate correlations (although some teleconnections will be fun) as looking at the human-climate dynamic interface with an idea of extracting patterns as well as sharing ideas, expertise, tools (especially modeling) and best practice approaches. In other words, a good set of discussions about human /landscape/ climate interactions and some sharing of integrative approaches to successful discipline-crossing endeavors.

As regards areas/cases we are particularly interested in: the US Southwest; Mesoamerica; the Caribbean; the North Atlantic; the North Pacific; Oceania/Hawaii; Eastern Arctic, and coastal South America, but we are inviting a range of contributors with multiple interests, as well as recognized leaders in climate change research. We will also have an explicit emphasis on projects which have had substantial NSF funding in the recent past, and thus have new and exciting stories to tell. Our strategy will be to invite multiple key players (with emphasis on synthesis, data integration, models, interpretive interfaces) from heavily funded areas where we know results are already available with high temporal resolution, landscape scale etc and from areas clearly on the edge of similar integrative breakthroughs.

We also have plans for a concrete workshop product - informally the GPS+Camera=Empowerment project. As a cooperative project with the school of GeoSciences of the University of Edinburgh we are developing a Google Maps/Google Earth based interactive system designed to enable local schools and other institutions in our study areas (initially Iceland, Barbuda, Orkney and Greenland) to record place-based information (sites of all periods, place names, elder stories, plant and animal distributions) as school projects. This information can easily be uploaded to interactive map-based websites that can display distributions, and also provide one-click access to a range of digital records. We know that several other groups are moving in the same direction, and that all of you have significant digital records and digital expertise to contribute, so we would like to use the gathering to launch a simple product with potentially wide utility in science education, TEK conservation, as well as engaging the people who host our projects (and pay for them) in the common enterprise of expanding human knowledge.

Recent Meetings on Related Topics

While no prior meeting duplicates the objectives of the proposed Maine meeting, we are drawing on several recent conferences for results and inspiration. These include the 2003 "Long Term Demographic Evolution in the Pacific Islands" conference, Mo'orea (which produced Kirch P.V. & Jean-Louis Rallu ed. 2007 Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies U Hawaii), the 2004 School of American Research meeting at the Santa Fe Institute on "Modeling Long-Term Culture Change" (which produced Kohler T. & S.van der Leeuw ed. 2007 "The Model-Based Archaeology of Socionatural Systems", SAR press Santa Fe), a session at the 2005 Society for American Archaeology meetings which produced a special volume on the "Archaeology of Global Change" in American Anthropologist (2007, McGovern editor), the 2008 NABO general meeting hosted by Bradford University and the 2007 and 2008 NABO International Polar Year Workshops (Edinburgh).

NSF Programs

The Global Perspectives of Long-term Human Ecodynamics is sponsored by the US National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs Arctic Social Sciences Program. Major initiatives by NSF and other funding agencies in the past decade have put substantial resources into regional-scale projects integrating multiple disciplines in a coordinated investigation of human-landscape-climate interactions over the century or millennial scale.

The recent NSF Biocomplexity competition, the ongoing NSF Human and Social Dimensions of Global Change Program, the International Polar Year, and major European initiatives (ARCHAEOMEDES, several major Leverhulme Trust grants, BOREAS) have provided major new resources to teams working in many parts of the world. In many cases, the lead investigators have been archaeologists, paleoecologists and climate historians whose longstanding interest in interdisciplinary integration has served to springboard a new archaeology of global change which has sought to integrate the best of processual, post-processual, historical ecological, and socionatural systems research into a models-rich, increasingly quantitative, fully interdisciplinary cooperative study of human ecodynamics. We are certainly not all archaeologists, but archaeology has become a surprisingly effective facilitator of successful interdisciplinary investigations in many parts of the globe, and this is an opportunity to begin to explore these new connections of the past, present, and future together.

Publication and Dissemination

The community statement and integrative papers will be rapidly published in the on-line Journal of the North Atlantic (JONA) which is part of the BioOne network and fully web-searchable. Links will be placed in a wide range of on line journals and websites. The new digital tools will be subject to a special JONA issue with full download capacity.

Recruitment and Support

Recruitment for the conference has taken place with collaboration by all concerned and much use of the NSF website to further identify major recent projects and contributors. We have worked to include younger as well as senior scholars and to include women and minority participants, and the Eagle Hill facility is fully handicap-friendly.