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New Canadian-led international project on environmental disasters in the Indian Ocean region

Earlier this summer I received news that colleagues at McGill University have won a seven-year Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This award will support a new international collaboration with researchers in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa focused on past environmental crises in the Indian Ocean World. Because the project will take aim at six historical events ranging from the present back to the 6th century AD, our group at Minnesota was brought onboard to provide the paleoclimatic context to these long-ago disasters.

The project's website is currently being revamped for the official launch later this year. But some of the Australian partners put out a press release earlier in June that shared the news about this new initiative. And this excerpt from the proposal's summary sets out the project's main goals.

In this ground-breaking, multidisciplinary initiative, leading scholars and students of history, geography, anthropology, religion, and climatology, as well as experts in data analysis, will in collaboration with Partners from academic and non-academic sectors investigate six of the greatest environmental crises in the recorded history of the [Indian Ocean World] from the mid-6th century to the present day. These crises were characterised, variously, by significant climate change, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, droughts/floods, epidemic disease, socio-economic instability, mass migration, and high mortality. The Partnership aims, for the first time, to (i) construct past-to-present patterns of the human and environmental factors at work before, during, and following each of the selected crises; (ii) ascertain current and traditional IOW perceptions of environmental risk and risk management; and (iii) use the results of this historical research to enhance currently employed [environmental risk perception and governance] protocols.

From my side of things, I'm excited to be able to marry our recent paleohydrology and paleoclimate work in the central Himalaya to this broader international effort and will look forward to our students being part of upcoming project meetings in Montreal and Germany.

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