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New seven-year $2.5 million partnership grant ‘Appraising risk, past and present: Interrogating historical data to enhance understanding of environmental crises in the Indian Ocean World’ 


Prof. Dr. Julia Verne, in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Gwyn Campbell from McGill University in Montreal and an international team of scholars, has been awarded a $2.5 million partnership grant funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to shed light on how to better deal with the prediction and aftermath of environmental disasters in the Indian Ocean region, including tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and cyclones.
The seven-year partnership entitled ‘Appraising risk, past and present: Interrogating historical data to enhance understanding of environmental crises in the Indian Ocean World’, which is anchored at the Indian Ocean World Centre at McGill University, will examine six of the greatest environmental crises dating back to the mid-sixth century, focusing in particular on their social, economic and political impacts. Drawing on historical insights, a major task will be to assist with the development of effective responses to environmental risks in the 21st Century.
Historians, social and environmental scientists, anthropologists, linguists and geographers from universities and research centres in Canada, Europe, and Australia with partner organizations along the shores of the Indian Ocean will examine historical data in a bid to uncover patterns of natural hazards, and better understand how societies have adapted to disaster and risk across time and how this look at the past may enable us to formulate future solutions.
Julia Verne will lead a research team including Klaus Greve and the ZFL at the University of Bonn, Brian Tomaszewski from the Rochester Insitute of Technology, USA, Tina Comes from Delft University of Technology, Ganapathy Pattukandan Ganapathy from the Vellore Institute of Technology, India and the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) in Jakarta. Their methodological focus will be to integrate historical (big) data with big data currently produced in social media etc. to nurture the link between geohumanities and disaster risk reduction.
Throughout the duration of the partnership a number of postgraduate students will be funded to undertake their thesis on related issues; PhD students will be recruited to investigate the potential of historical data for contemporary risk governance in the Indian Ocean and thus to focus on the translatability of historical information into current policies. One of five summer schools will be organized in Bonn, which – as the UN hub for sustainability – provides an ideal context to address such themes.
Overall, this partnerships will allow Julia Verne and her team to participate at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into the past, present and future of human-environment interaction in the Indian Ocean region.


Foto: Prof. Dr. Julia Verne