DUNAS (Descendants United for Nature, Adaptation and Sustainability)

The Climate Science Alliance (CSA), under the fiscal sponsorship of the California Wildlife Foundation (CWF), is partnering with Para la Naturaleza (PLN) and the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (CCCIA) to undertake a community based, climate adaptation focused dune restoration pilot project titled, DUNAS: Descendants United for Nature, Adaptation and Sustainability.” In September, 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, causing considerable coastal erosion and coastal flooding. A few months later, a series of abnormally strong winter storms brought record-breaking storm surge that caused even further dune erosion and coastal flooding, washing away much of what Hurricane Maria had left behind. These events led to a severe crisis and some of the worst damage occurred along the north coast. Sand dunes were severely eroded and breached, and beaches lost gradient and total sand budget. These changes not only impacted sandy beach habitats, but also severely degraded the natural protection that dunes provide to the adjacent coastal wetlands, coastal forests, grasslands, freshwater marshes, and local human communities. Our project provides a model for integrating academic and local science to develop a climate adaptation strategy that provides resilience for important endemic and migratory species, but also for the citizens of this region of Puerto Rico.

Read: Climate Science Alliance – DUNAS Project Makes History Come Alive With New 3D Artifact Models

Lab Members: Mariela Declet

Human Paleoecology of Puerto Rico

Human activities occur over landscapes and in intimate relation with natural resources. These relationships are dynamic, modifying and responding to change in social, environmental and climatic systems. The results of these interactions support the social ability to maintain traditions through the exploitation of plant, animal and geological / sedimentary resources distributed over landscapes and seascapes. In cultural contexts, decision-making in regards to environmental change influences social resilience and vulnerability levels to the processes of change. This project investigates these topics in the pre-European periods of the human occupations on the Archipelago of Puerto Rico (Borikén, Culebra, Bieke and other relevant spaces). The multiple individual researches under this project investigate these topics at multiple scales: slow-onset and rapid onset changes. Topics investigated include marine-based food exploitation (zooarchaeology, marine ecology), landscape change (geoarchaeology, sedimentology, microfossil analysis, underwater archaeology), sea level change (modeling, sediment analysis, remote sensing), trade and exchange (lithics and ceramic analyses), and others.

Lab Members: Margaret Morris, Mariela Declet, Eric Rodríguez, Katrina Cantu, Margie Burton

Climate Impacts and Coastal Cultural Heritage

The drivers of climate change can affect social vulnerability by destabilizing the ecological bases of livelihood security. Heritage is important to the climate change conversation because changing climate has the potential to impact our food and habitat security. Archeological research can provide precedents of effective and ineffective response mechanisms of disaster management by past societies. Even though contemporary and past societies may not be directly comparable, the deep historical perspective used in archaeology can provide useful data for present and future scenarios of risk reduction measures. Our ancient ways of food and habitat in the context of changing climates can help us identify different scenarios and alternate response strategies. This research project encompasses several activities.

Climate Heritage Network Working Group 2
Developing materials that make the cases for valuing traditional knowledge as climate change technology and gathering examples of sustainable traditional practices that support climate action– including traditional building materials, construction, and design

Vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s Tangible Coastal Heritage
Within the context of climate change, sea-level rise is threatening not only coastal communities globally, but also the archaeological record of their history, knowledge, and culture. As a response, inter-institutional databases of heritage have increasingly been coupled with other widely available cyberinfrastructure to assess the magnitude of the threat and the vulnerability of cultural heritage, in order to begin the design of actionable steps or mitigation of impact. This project focuses on monitoring and recording the impacts that changing climate has on Puerto Rico’s tangible cultural heritage on the long term.

Lab Members: Amanda Millin, Simona Clausnitzer, Elyse Goin

California Heritage Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI)

Climate change poses an increasing threat to cultural heritage at a global scale. Of concern, the loss of heritage can exacerbate social vulnerability as communities lose their grounding and material connection to the past. The scale of the climate impact to heritage can seem untenable such that even defining effective action may be overwhelming. The goal of this project is to evaluate and synthetize the existing vulnerability assessments, to identify the particular needs of California, and to develop a protocol to begin measuring the vulnerability of local heritage to climate impacts, with the goal of identifying a set of potential actions for mitigation. One of the long-term objectives of this initial effort is to empower communities to participate in solutions to steward their heritage into the future.This project is developed in collaboration with and with economic support from the California State Historic Preservation Office. Additional partners in this effort include Historic Environment Scotland, and the CVI – Climate Vulnerability Index project. Co-PI: Julianne Polanco, CA SHPO.

View Brochure: California Heritage Climate Vulnerability Assessment Tool

Lab Members: Simona Clausnitzer

Cooperative Research for Climate Resilience

In the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation studies, as in many other areas of western science, there has often been a tendency to overlook and exclude marginalized populations in the course of scientific research (Forman and Pellow 2019). This can lead to incomplete knowledge and flawed solutions to complex problems such as climate change, which requires an understanding of the interconnectedness of ecology and society (Lubchenco et al. 2016). Close partnership with communities and resource user groups can expose those inaccuracies and enable better adaptation and mitigation strategies (Miller 2018; Mitchell 2020). A diversity of perspectives leads to a diversity of solutions (Redmond 2014), a critical tool in adapting to climate change. The purpose of this training is to encourage researchers to develop a holistic perspective of the problem of climate change and give them the tools to incorporate community knowledge into their research and proposed solutions in an equitable manner.

Access Training | View Training Syllabus


  • Forman, Fonna and David Pellow. (2019). Humans, Nature, and the Quest for Climate Justice.  Edited by Veerabhadran Ramanathan. Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions. Pp2.1-2.52.
  • Lubchenco J, Cerny-Chipman EB, Reimer JN, Levin SA. (2016). The right incentives enable ocean sustainability successes and provide hope for the future. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 113(51):14507-14514. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1604982113. Epub 2016 Dec 2. PMID: 27911770.
  • Miller, Kelsey. (2018). Using Large-Area Imaging to Assess Intertidal Biological Response to Changing Oceanographic Conditions in Partnership with the Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation. UC San Diego: Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6128z27n
  • Mitchell, Sherri. Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth. Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharene K. Wilkinson. All We Can Save. pp. 16-28.
  • Redmond, Kendra. (2014). Why Is Diversity Important for Science? Society of Physics Students. https://www.spsnational.org/the-sps-observer/fall/2014/why-diversity-important-science

Lab Members: Gene DePuy