Carmen Alejandra Umana-Kinitzki

Grant Type

Engaged Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

McGill U.

Grant number

Gr. ERG-39

Approve Date

February 2, 2023

Project Title

Umana-Kinitzki, Carmen (McGill U.) "Integrating Indigenous Storywork, Biocultural Cartography, and Baselining Practices to Address Shifting Baseline Syndrome and Establish Forest and Watershed Recovery Targets in the Bayano-Majécito Watershed, Panama."

Areas that are governed and conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities are foundational to the preservation and enhancement of conditions necessary for life on Earth. In the Bayano-Maj’cito Watershed (Panama), Maj’ Ember’ Dr’a knowledge keepers are identifying and interpreting historical changes, monitoring current trends, and formulating effective strategies for the defense and resurgence of habitats and species diversity within their territories. This research collaboration combines Indigenous storywork, biocultural mapping methodologies, and baselining practices to track the cumulative effects of hydroelectric dam development (1972-1976) and rampant deforestation that has reduced forest cover by 45% within the community’s 19,000 hectares in less than two decades. In so doing, we seek to identify the biological and cultural baseline conditions necessary for watershed recovery while addressing Shifting Baseline Syndrome, a global phenomenon whereby the place-based memories of elders are forgotten, and degrading territories are gradually accepted as normal with each passing generation. By developing community established biocultural recovery targets as well as protocols for their implementation and monitoring, this work promotes trans-epistemic collaborations in watershed research to decolonize normative baselining practices within watershed restoration research while contributing to the community’s larger efforts to claim collective legal title to their territory.