GHEA: Comparative Ecodynamics in the Aleutian and Kuril Islands: A GHEA synthesis workshop

Project Leaders: Ben Fitzhugh (project owner)
Dixie West

Project Type: Workshop

GHEA Project Collaborators

Start: October 1, 2012
End: November 8, 2012


This workshop will bring together a diverse group of expert scholars and students to explore long-term human-environmental dynamics through the Holocene in the North Pacific with a focus on the Kuril and Aleutian islands. Stretching across vast expanses of the North Pacific, these archipelagos constitute model ecosystems for tracking migration, human-environmental interactions and adaptations. Organisms, including humans, have adapted to two of the most rugged, geologically active, weather-beaten, and biologically productive places on earth.  The Kurils and Aleutians share geographical aspects including: linear alignments, variation in island size and ecological complexity, and different degrees of insularity from mainland environments and neighboring islands.  Over the past decade, in both areas, interdisciplinary teams of archaeologists, biologists, geologists, chemists, and modelers have worked to better understand environmental and human dynamics. These teams have developed innovative methods for exploring the intersection of geological, paleoenvironmental, biological, and cultural histories in these areas. However, accumulated, substantial research questions, methodologies, and data sets for both regions 1) remain disparate and nonintegrated and 2) are subsequently underutilized.

The proposed workshop will tackle these problems by examining the Holocene histories of these physically similar regions to isolate similarities and differences in processes of human-environmental dynamics.  The workshop will focus on how these model systems can reveal core principles of human-environmental vulnerability and resilience (human ecodynamics) relevant to current and future concerns over socio-environmental sustainability in the context of changing climates and broader social contexts. A multi-disciplinary approach will be enriched by discussion of the potential for expanded modeling, an informatics infrastructure made available for organization, synthesis and archiving of future research in the Aleutians, Kurils and related Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions, and better ways to contribute to public education about the lessons of long term human ecodynamics studies for human-environmental sustainability.