Student Research assignment: Local knowledge for indicating climate change in Suriname

By | Press Release, Publication

Green Growth Suriname Foundation has an opportunity for a student research assignment, starting  November 2021.

Climate change will have a profound effect on Suriname. Predictions for Suriname as a whole show that with doubling of Carbon Dioxide by the year 2100, the mean annual temperature increases by 2.6 centigrade and the mean annual precipitation will decrease about 4.7% compared to the last 20-30 years (Nurmohamed, 2008). Even more important are the factors other than warming, including changes in rainfall pattern and frequency that is expected to have a larger scale effect than biotic interactions between species and soil variations (Borchert, 1998). The projected shift in rainfall patterns – specifically the length of the dry season – is identified as the key-controller for tropical forest climatic change (Hutyra et al, 2005). Such predictions are consistent with the finding that the dry season between the months of May-December will become dryer with 24% by 2080 in Suriname (Nurmohamed, 2008).

However, accurate predictions about the effects of climate are difficult to capture in the abstract models used nowadays (Da Silva,Werth & Arissar, 2008). The complex nature of climate is not well understood, often because it is removed from its social context (Weber, 2006; Leiserowitz, 2006; Vedwan & Rhoades, 2001; Vogel & O’Brien, 2006). People that have lived in a specific place for long periods of time (>10 years) have observed change in their immediate environment. These local peoples have developed and interchanged practical instruments and normative knowledge about the ecological, socio-economic and cultural environment (Agrawal, 1995).  They rely on experience and have identified indicators in their surroundings. These dynamic, inside-out strategies are a valuable point of departure for the design of present-day adaptive resource management strategies (Parlee & Fikret, 2006).

Suriname provides a unique location to study climate change. A primary aim of this research is to study the traditional system in recognizing and predicting ecosystem alterations. With this research indicators will be identified based on local concepts, knowledge and practices to foresee climate-related hazards. Specific objectives are to 1) Identify verifiable forest indicators for seasonal climate change and 2) Define the traditional knowledge system as it relates to understanding climate change.

Research goal
The overall goal of the project is to study the traditional system in recognizing and predicting ecosystem alterations. A better understanding of how local peoples perceive and manage local ecosystems in changing climate is an anticipated result of this research. We plan to answer the following research questions: What are the indicators used by local peoples for indicating seasonality? Can these traditional indicators be used as a prediction tool for change for future use?

Student Opportunity
Students will work together with a PhD. level researcher to answer the research questions. In practice, students will visit different stakeholders and interview them on the indicators. Also, students will work together with the lead researcher to gather information from the field in social mapping exercises, as well as other research methods. The work will eventually be published in an academic journal with mentioning of students and other contributors.

The period for collaboration in this research project is a minimum of 3 months and can go as long as the student needs to complete his/her project. Students will receive a stipend of U$ 500 for contributing to this research project which will be used for transportation and professional fees.

Students who are interested can contact us via email: