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all the island’s drinking water; perform for researchers and watershed members to produce knowledge, though mostly withdrawn like hyporheic zones, and inform our understanding of place caught in the grasp of the Anthropocene.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.

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