I Manestorian Talakhaya: altering coastalscapes, material time, and fluid non-relationality on the island of Rota

Mr Malcolm Johnson1

1Bureau Of Environmental And Coastal Quality, Rota, USA


The small island of Rota, between Guam and Saipan, exists on a spatiotemporal threshold in the Marianas Archipelago. Based on archeological and ecological evidence, the terraced karst coastalscape has altered drastically since the arrival of the Chamorros approximately 4,000 years ago. Invasive species introductions, clearing of large tracts of forest, and the influence of hundreds of years of colonization is not only reflected in the laws, cultures, and ecosystems, but also through a past that is, a present-past vying for attention in the hearts of residents. Talakhaya; one of five watersheds, the only with visible streams, and the source of nearly all the island’s drinking water; perform for researchers and watershed members to produce knowledge, though mostly withdrawn like hyporheic zones, and inform our understanding of place caught in the grasp of the Anthropocene. Through a combination of surveys, interviews, participatory planning workshops, and field-based data collection; the material history of the watershed will be explored followed by the current values attributed to the coastalscape by community members, finishing with a consideration of the biocultural future of the human and non-human connection. Freshwater eels, medicinal plants, fading signage, creation myths, nursery-grown saplings, ungulates, monuments to sugar cane.


Malcolm Johnson is the National Coral Reef Management Fellow for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. He is interested in the connection of humans and non-humans within watersheds seen through the lens of speculative realism.

Governing climate across ontological frictions in Timor-Leste

Dr Alexander Cullen1

1University Of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom


While the necessity of global climate action increases starkly every year, how such knowledge is sensed and mobilised in customary or indigenous landscapes is rarely given adequate attention by NGOs or the state. Resultantly, site-based mitigation or adaptation processes may manifest unintended, (and often impactful), outcomes. Such risks are heightened in post-conflict spaces of institutional uncertainty and epistemological flux. This paper therefore stresses the importance of examining negotiations of ontological difference through which climate governance is refracted between localised customary and formal institutions. This is done by scrutinising the superficiality of climate discourse at the governance interface in rural south coast Timor-Leste. Here, failures to consider complex customary epistemologies and residual socio-political relations to land has produced conceptual ambivalence and serious local environmental conflict.


Alexander Cullen is a Lecturer in Political Ecology at University of Cambridge, Department of Geography.

Research work in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea looking at conservation, land rights and identity.

Research interests: political ecology, climate, indigenous resource management; ontology, socio-political dimensions of conservation


Using narratives of a sustainable landscape to inform product design: A tool helping transition farms to a low carbon future

Dr Cara Stitzlein1

1CSIRO Data61, Hobart, Australia


Human Factors is a multidisciplinary field including Product Design in which participatory methods are used to promote usability and ‘fit’ in new products (i.e. tools and technologies). The use of human centred design practices allows multiple perspectives to be included in the product development process. This presentation reports on experiences interviewing a diverse set of stakeholders about their perceptions of the existing Australian Carbon Farming scene and their behaviours with digital technologies (digitalisation). Their knowledge and values informed the development of a product envisioned to promote government-certified carbon farming projects within the land sector.

This presentation will include a presentation of the personas developed with a human centred design perspective: Each offering a unique narrative about sustainability of the landscape and the importance of a low carbon future. We reflect on the digital prototype tool as a representation of the collective narratives found in policy and practice. Finally we suggest ways that Human Factors might broadly contribute to disciplines engaged in landscape research through formal opportunities for connection and informal reflections on personal experience.


Cara has a background in Cognitive Engineering, and is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the CSIRO. Here, she’s contributing to the Digiscape Future Science Platform that looks to promote innovation in the Agricultural sector. Her work involves close engagement with stakeholders throughout the land sector so that products are developed in a manner that are responsive to customer needs and provide useful insights.

Treasures in the rubble: materialised memory and the traumatic loss of belongings in bushfire

Dr Scott McKinnon1, Dr Christine Eriksen2

1University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


This paper explores the significance of lost belongings and discovered ‘treasures’ in the burnt out rubble of homes destroyed by bushfire. Drawing on interviews with bushfire survivors, the paper argues that, among risks to life and livelihood, disasters also place at risk the memories of individuals and families. For many interviewees, the destruction of household items represented the destruction of a treasured past.

While examining the traumatising potential of such loss, the paper will also explore new forms of memory produced by the disaster. Among ashen ruins were found small objects, often melted and unusable but salvaged for their value as commemorative artefacts. These objects became invested with complex layers of memory, representing both the fire itself and the life that existed before the fire struck.

Disasters reveal the importance attributed to everyday objects as materialised forms of memory. For many survivors, the destruction of these memories produced a destabilising form of ontological precarity.  We argue for the value in attending to threats to memory as a significant element of disaster recovery processes.


Scott McKinnon is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Australian Centre for Culture Environment Society and Space (ACCESS) at the University of Wollongong. His current project investigates memories of disaster in Australia.

Email: scottmck@uow.edu.au

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