Day 5 – Inland Watersheds and Interdisciplinaries

For Keynote Talk abstracts for Day 5 please see here

Panel #1

“Try to visualize a million acres of marsh vegetation”: Manitoba’s New Deal to Rehabilitate Rodents (Ondatra zibethicus) of the Saskatchewan River Delta During the Great Depression”

Frank Tough

In the 1930s, the Manitoba Game and Fisheries Branch initiated a bold northern development project designed to promote wise resource use and to economically assist the Native population of The Pas region. This project was based on (1) environmental manipulation; (2) resource and economic planning; and (3) income re- distribution. This paper, based on an interdisciplinary approach to the archival record, will assess the achievements and shortfalls of this conservation project designed to secure incomes for Native trapping families. The project planners were cognizant of Native rights; however, the political agency of Treaty and Métis people of the region influenced the project’s development. Nonetheless, the manipulation of the wetlands environment proved to be more challenging than the economic reorganization of production and exchange.


“Improving the City, Sullying the Waters: Polluting Onondaga Lake in the Nineteenth Century”

Bob Wilson, Department of Geography, Syracuse University

In the past decade, geographers and historians have carefully analyzed the history of river and lake pollution and how municipalities secured and produced clean water for 27
people in cities. But few scholars have examined these processes together. In many North American cities, appropriating rivers and lakes as sinks for industrial waste and sewage occurred simultaneously. Syracuse, New York was no exception. It sits beside Onondaga Lake, arguably the most polluted lake in the United States, yet its drinking water comes from nearby Skaneateles Lake, one of the cleanest sources of municipal water in the world. Neither Onondaga Lake’s defiled state nor Skaneateles Lake’s pure condition was inevitable. Municipal and state policies created Onondaga and Skaneateles Lakes’ current situation. These lakes are unusual in their degree of pollution and purity, but they are also emblematic of how North Americans coproduced rivers and lakes as sites of waste and potable water over the past two centuries.


“Linking environmental and watershed histories with western development in the Truckee-Tahoe Basin”

Adam Csank, Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno

The Truckee River basin, located in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains on the California-Nevada border is an important source of water for both the city of Reno and for agriculture in the state of Nevada. In addition, the headwaters of the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, is a highly valued recreational area and has been since the early 20th century. The first US Bureau of Reclamation diversion project, the Derby Dam, is located along the Truckee River and was constructed to provide water for agriculture to encourage settlement in the state of Nevada. It is thus unsurprising that in this region the value of streamflow records was recognized very early on. Although tree-ring data have long been used to reconstruct a variety of hydroclimate variables, one of the earliest studies to use tree-ring records to provide a long-term context to streamflow was conducted in the Truckee River basin (Hardman and Riel, 1934). At the time that Hardman and Riel (1934) conducted their original study, the western United States was experiencing a drought which at the time was unprecedented. It was recognized that records of hydroclimate in the Truckee River basin were too short to provide a meaningful context as to whether a drought of that magnitude was unusual. Many of the statements made in that seminal paper could as easily have been written about the current ongoing drought in the Western US. Here I present an updated streamflow and lake level record of the Truckee-Tahoe Basin and will discuss this record in the context of both settlement and water resource development in the Truckee-Tahoe Basin.


“Managing Water in Territorial-Era New Mexico: Hydraulic Expertise and the Science of Settlement”

Maria Lane, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico

This presentation examines the scientific operations and publications of a water agency created in territorial New Mexico in 1905 to encourage, authorize, and control water development projects. Following a brief overview of the agency’s creation during an era of increasing “rationalization” of natural resource management in the American West, the paper explores in detail the scientific activities undertaken by the Office of the Territorial Irrigation Engineer. Using the agency’s biennial reports and hydrologic 28
surveys as primary sources, it analyzes the ways that hydraulic surveys of river basins and the cataloguing of arid-land cultivation techniques enabled American settler colonialism in a fraught cultural context. The paper also considers tensions between the agency’s professed commitment to principles of rationalization and its struggles to enact them in the practical management of water resources.


Panel #2

“Socio-biophysical soundscapes: Sonifying geographical research”

Katie Hemsworth

In this presentation, I argue that sound, sonic methods, and auditory power relations are important, yet often under-recognized, actors within the “socio-biophysical landscape” (Lave et al., 2014). A shift toward soundscape (Schafer, 1977) might help to disrupt long-standing geographical traditions of settler colonialism, much of which has been advanced through visual techniques of power. Recognizing the deep connection between Indigenous cultures and aural/oral ways of knowing (what Feld calls “acoustemology”), I highlight the value of sonic methodologies for decolonizing geographical scholarship while also considering potential challenges of sound-based inquiry. Drawing on examples from existing art-science collaborations, as well as my work with the Empire, Trees, and Climate research project, I demonstrate how sound archives, aural/oral histories, and sonification techniques can be used to inform interdisciplinary collaborations through critical physical geography and the geo- humanities.


“Gunn’s ‘A Day in Algonquin Park’: Settler Colonial Listening and Erasure”

Laura Cameron, Department of Geography and Planning, Queen’s University, and Matt Rogalsky, School of Drama and Music, Queen’s University

This talk considers the listening and recording practice of William W.H. “Bill” Gunn with a focus on one of his earliest creative forays, the 1955 production of A Day in Algonquin Park. In exploring Gunn’s compositional decisions and the political and creative contexts which surrounded them, we detail his sonic practice and acknowledge the ways in which the album’s creation and reception play out paradoxical aspects of the wilderness myth, while feeding into the construction of a popular and idealized Canadian identity. Finding that ecological and sonic practice can reinforce the political erasures of humans and compound the effects of settler colonialism, we discuss Dylan Robinson’s concept of “hungry listening” as a productive way to think about the cultural positionalities of perception. As Gunn’s modernist ecological sensibility struggled to articulate a place for human visitors within nature, we find that his outlook and concerns were not very different from some contemporary environmental field recordists and soundscape composers.


“Onondaga Lake: Finding a Restorative Center in Digital Space”

Rachel May, Jane Read, and Philip Arnold

Onondaga Lake, Syracuse, NY, is small and obscure, but its story touches on Indigenous wars and the Great Law of Peace, the writing of the US Constitution, the development of American industry and transportation, legal and technical innovations for environmental recovery, and creative urban planning. We are attempting to develop a prototype digital atlas of the lake for a range of audiences that tells some of the rich stories of the lake and combines the idea of space as a spiritual center in Indigenous and local knowledge with the more decentered idea of space inherent in digital mapping and GIS. We will discuss some of our findings, the challenges that we have encountered, and opportunities that we see in this work.


“Unsettling Settler Universes and Posthuman Multiverses: Relational Ecologies of Arts and Science Collaborations”

Pavlina Radia, Assistant Dean of Arts and Science, Nipissing University

In 1989, Guattari argued for an “ecosophical logic” that unsettles settler universes, Eurocentric anthropocentrism, and disciplinary territorialism underpinning Arts and Science. In her recent work, Braidotti suggests that, in the digital age, the ecosophical logic paves the way towards what she calls a “posthuman ethics” that affirms the interrelationships between Arts and Science, the human and non-/or posthuman, technology and biodiversity, time and space, or race and ethnicity (169). Similarly, Shohat, Smith, and Wright deploy such relationships as a system of “relational ecologies” (Wright 14) that account for environmental geopolitics, including power, racial, and gender inequities. This paper explores how such methodologies trouble settler universes through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, but also how they transform Arts and Science silos into “relational ecologies” (Wright 14) that bring together “many contested ways of becoming-world together” (Braidotti and Gilroy 36).