Collaborative Research: Mapping the materiality of past human responses to climate change

Project: Research project

Project Details


As climate change intensifies, the study of human adaptation and response to climate disturbances has become critical. Sea level rise, warming oceans, and other climate-driven changes place millions of people in coastal communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. These communities must adapt to increasing food, energy, infrastructure, and water insecurity. Knowledge of past change and how to respond effectively to disturbance is a form of social memory passed down through generations. The loss of this social memory may severely limit people’s capacity to adapt to changing conditions. This project investigates the influence of social memory on human responses to climate change at decadal to millennial time scales. This research clarifies the impacts of knowledge loss on human adaptive capacity. The results can inform policies that prioritize the preservation of intergenerational knowledge to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on human societies. This project supports the training of multiple graduate students and early career scholars from underserved communities and advances the careers of two principal investigators from underrepresented groups in science. The project is conducted in collaboration with stakeholder coastal communities. This project hypothesizes that social memory helps communities adapt to climate change by increasing community knowledge about diverse livelihood strategies, thus enabling people to experiment and identify the strategies that work best. Archaeological, ethnohistorical, and paleoclimate data collected and analyzed during three seasons of collaborative research with stakeholder communities provide a record of past climate events and human responses. The combination of these records allows researchers to identify the impact of social memory on past responses to climate change and model how the loss of intergenerational knowledge will impact communities’ capacity to adapt to future change. This work clarifies the role of information flows in human adaptation.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date9/1/228/31/25


  • National Science Foundation: $371,187.00


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