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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Re-animating Indigenous knowledge: decolonizing transformative environmental governance


Wednesday 25th of November 2015 – 15:00 to 16:00 hrs

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Julian Yates
Julian Yates

Abstract: Indigenous knowledges remain on the fringe of policy and practice in environmental governance. Often conceptualized as “Traditional Ecological Knowledge”, the environmental knowledges and practices of Indigenous peoples have frequently been incorporated only instrumentally within development interventions, conservation programmes, and co-management plans. While everyday environmental governance continues in practice within Indigenous communities, formal policy- and decision-making continues to marginalize these experiences. In this presentation, I draw on two cases to explore the intersection of Indigenous knowledge and formal environmental governance frameworks. The first case revolves around a network of kamayoq – Indigenous, community-based specialists engaged in adult, peer-to-peer education programmes in the Peruvian Andes. I explore the challenges of integrating Indigenous knowledge into broader development programmes, and the unintended consequences of establishing nation-wide Indigenous professionalization programmes. The second case explores the limits to water co-governance frameworks in British Columbia, Canada. I use the notion of conflicting ‘water ontologies’ to illustrate the ways in which Indigenous knowledge is politicized and de-politicized in the rush to eradicate proliferating boil water advisories. Drawing on decolonial scholarship, I argue that these cases illustrate the need to move beyond ‘integrationist’ perspectives on Indigenous knowledge, and towards a ‘reciprocity of knowledges’. This approach offers a way of building community-based environmental governance programmes that embrace diversity and difference, and do not once again map over Indigenous knowledges and ecologies. I illustrate that this approach can transform how we think about (adaptive) environmental governance institutions and the ecologies that they (re)produce. This transformational component is politically generative and environmentally re-generative, as it grounds these alternative environmental governance perspectives in a pursuit for Indigenous sovereignty, and in an appreciation of Indigenous ontologies and ecologies. I conclude by reflecting on how these insights might inform policy-making in environmental co-governance.

Julian is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, and a member of the Program on Water Governance and Environment and Development: Gender, Equity, Sustainability research teams. Julian’s work focuses on the intersection between the politics of knowledge, social justice, and community-based environmental governance. His current work explores the rollout of small-scale water filtration facilities among BC’s First Nations communities – an approach that gained political expediency due to the recently introduced Water Sustainability Act. This work focuses on the intersections between Indigenous conceptions of water in nature, and techno-scientific approaches to delivering ‘clean water’ to First Nations communities. Julian’s doctoral (UBC, geography) research explored the revival of Indigenous, peer-to-peer environmental knowledge sharing practices in the Peruvian Southern Andes. Based on this research, Julian is currently working on a book manuscript, titled “Re-Animating Andean Worlds: Decolonization and the politics of Indigenous professionalization in the Peruvian Andes” (Duke University Press). Previous projects include research as an NGO consultant into adaptation to climate change in rural Nepal, and graduate research into inclusive waste management through recyclers’ cooperatives in São Paulo, Brazil. Julian’s publications related to these projects are available on Google Scholar, Academia.edu, or Research Gate.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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