Alor Ethnobotany Project

NSF-BCS 0936887 Origins of the Alor-Pantar Languages
PI: Gary Holton, Department of Linguistics

This pilot project documents traditional botanical knowledge in Abui, an endangered non-Austronesian language spoken in the Alor Archipelago of Southern Indonesia. Given rapid changes in human-environment interactions, etnobotanical knowledge is particularly susceptible to loss and stylistic shrinkage. Building on more than a decade of collaborative research by an international team of investigators, this project will: (1) collect voucher specimens for herbarium deposit and determination to species; (2) create high-quality photographic images of each specimen; and (3) video-record, transcribe and translate conversations about knowledge of each specimen in Abui language. The results will provide a baseline for future comparative studies, forming the foundation for an empirical ethnobotanical dataset, which can be used for linguistic reconstruction of botanical terminology. Ultimately, such data provide clues to the ecosystems of ancestral homelands and aid in the identification of lexical borrowings which suggest prehistoric migration patterns and the emergence of areal features that demonstrate cultural and linguistic contact.

Developing guidelines for and assessing relationships among biocultural indicators to improve long-term resilience of Pacific social and ecological communities

Working group leaders: Tamara Ticktin (UHM Botany), Stacy Jupiter (Wildlife Conservation Society Melanesia), Manuel Mejia (The Nature Conservancy- Hawaii), Eleanor Sterling and Chris Filardi (American Museum of Natural History) and Rachel Dacks (UHM Biology)

This collaborative project is funded through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) Science for Nature and People Initiative (SNaP) and focuses on developing and assessing biocultural indicators of resilience in Pacific Island communities. Pacific Island communities face unprecedented challenges in conserving natural resources and maintaining human well-being. Gaining a better understanding of the factors driving community resilience and the supportive management practices and policies is urgent. Biocultural feedbacks are widely believed to play a critical role in fostering the adaptive capacity of resilient human and ecological communities, but they are poorly understood. Understanding biocultural linkages and feedbacks requires overcoming two challenges: 1) development of consistent methodologies to identify and measure them; and 2) development of appropriate models to explore how their benefits are affected by social and environmental pressures. Through synthesis of the literature and comparative data analyses from on-going projects across a wide range of Pacific Island communities, we will identify (i) What makes a good set of biocultural indicators and how can they be measured?; (ii) How can we scale local to global metrics that have relevance across diverse Pacific Island sites?; and (iii) What is the relationship between pressures, ‘biocultural state’, benefits and management responses in Pacific Island communities? Outputs will include journal articles, policy briefs, guidelines and peer learning tools for communities, and strategic findings summaries that will assist resource managers at various levels to plan for desired biocultural states in a rapidly changing world.

Lands, Seas and Skies: ​Conversations with Science, Tradition and the Sacred 🗓 🗺

September 6-7, 2016

The UH Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific is sponsoring this symposium bringing together traditional knowledge holders, guardians of sacred lands, natural scientists, academics and protected area managers. Discussions will focus on specific places and issues organized around three domains: lands, seas and skies. The goal of the symposium is to highlight possibilities for growing collaboration, mutual understanding and better protection of biodiversity, indigenous land rights and sacred natural sites and territories.

​Whether perceived through the lens of science or the sacred, nature’s spaces and cultural diversity alike face tremendous threats and now more then ever we need innovative approaches, new thinking, and concerted efforts to provide creative solutions. Enhancing and fostering dialogue between different epistemic communities, different ways of thinking about and approaching western science, tradition and the sacred is the goal. A concluding roundtable and open-room dialogue will raise the meaning of the day’s conversations for our work as scientists and scholars, will inform the policies at our university, and will help clarify the research goals and directions of our community of teachers and learners.

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