Heritage & Climate

This post briefly describes some ongoing work on the intersection of heritage and climate change, and specifically my work reconstructing the historical landscape of Atsena Otie Key in Levy County, Florida. So, without further ado, buckle up!

It’s an online lecturer… It’s a streamer… It’s both!

This is our first week of classes at UCF. As the other educators know, this means lots of new course prep (some last minute stuff, lots of clarifying emails, etc.). I’m taking advantage of the new semester to alter my approach to creating video lectures for my online courses. I’m basically taking a page out of the streamer handbook and embedding a smaller screen of me lecturing. My hope is that this will help create a deeper connection between me and my students. I’m also referencing specific questions in the videos that students can then address in polls and a discussion available on the same page housing the video lecture. I have high hopes for this. Already, dozens of students have participated in the polls and several began a great conversation about cyborg anthropology.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m finding myself delivering a much more animated and spirited lecture with this format. In other words, I’m having fun recording these lectures! They feel much more like the lectures that I give in face-to-face courses. Fingers crossed this continues and building that deeper connection often missing from online courses.

The climate’s not getting better, and heritage continues to pay the price.

A lot of my work has dealt with the intersection between climate change and heritage, although I rarely publish standalone pieces on this. A good example is from the continuing work on the historical and GIS-based research for Atsena Otie Key mentioned last week. This project focuses on reconstructing the social history of the island’s community through time, and especially between the 1850s and first decade of the 1900s. A secondary goal is to examine the effects of climate change on the local landscape. In addition to reconstructing property boundaries, the GIS includes a couple dozen maps, aerial images, and other data between 1852 and 1979. This data is revealing how well the island actually weathered large hurricanes and other events in the 1800s to mid-1900s. This rapidly changes in the past 50 or so years. During this time accelerating climate change has wrought enormous changes upon the local landscape.

50 years of climate change on Atsena Otie.

You can interact with the small embedded map below. This only includes two sets of data. The first is the 2015 aerial imagery available from Google, and the second is a georeferenced aerial from 1961. Large portions of the island have remained relatively unchanged. However, if you look closely at the corners – particularly the northwestern and southeastern ones – you’ll notice considerable changes. A large portion of the island’s southeastern corner has completely disappeared. An aerial from 1979 (not pictured) shows the corner still present 18 years after the 1961 aerial. So, those large landscape changes have actually occurred in the past 40 years. The pace is clearly picking up.

Examine the effects of 50 years of accelerating climate change.
A blast from the past!

I have spent a considerable amount of time making my research process transparent. This includes sharing my data to the fullest extent possible. This includes making oral history transcripts, census data, GIS data, and other things freely available by uploading them to my website(s). I’ve been doing this since the early 2000s. Unfortunately, sometimes this data goes offline. I don’t have much in the way of institutional support for hosting data or webpages. Fortunately, finding folks today is relatively easy. It is always exciting when I get requests for this data.

I received one such request for the CDEAL GIS data. This came from a student at the University of Chicago. CDEAL stands for the Chinese Diaspora Emigrant Area Locator GIS. This is a large project I completed years ago. It is a GIS bringing together numerous data as part of my research in Chinese communities in the US, Peru, and New Zealand. It was referenced heavily in this article. The CDEAL GIS was available on an earlier website, but one that went away some time ago due to cost. I responded to the student and got them the data. It was very nice getting that request. It reminds me that I need to return to this data and get it online again. Something I plan on doing in the next few weeks.

Opening screenshot of the CDEAL GIS.

Okay, not much else to report. If you’re looking for some new music, consider Thea Gilmore. I came across her music after Neil Gaimen posted about it on Twitter.


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