The James H. Hayes and Claire Short Hayes Professor of the Humanities
James H. Hayes and Claire Short Hayes Professor of Humanities
In fall 2016, Meghan Howey, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Affiliate Associate Professor of Earth Systems Research Center, begins a full-term appointment as the James H. Hayes and Claire Short Hayes Professor of the Humanities, commonly known as the Hayes Chair. Through the end of academic year 2021, Howey will work on A Deep Time, Multi-Archive Narrative of the Anthropocene in the Great Bay.
While the Anthropocene has not been formally designated yet as a geologic epoch, many scientists agree that given the major impact of human activities on earth and atmosphere, we are living a human-dominated geological epoch supplementing the Holocene.
With students, community volunteers, and tribal consultants, Howey will conduct archaeological survey, excavation, collections analysis, and archival research on Precontact (ca. 9500 BC to 1600 AD) and Historic period (ca. 1600 to 1900 AD) occupation in the Great Bay Estuary to understand historical cycles of resource decisions, depletions, and capacities for cultural and ecological resilience, as well as the lessons these hold for broader conversations about our ongoing transformation of the natural world in the Anthropocene.
Estuaries are highly sensitive ecosystems that provide “first alarm” indicators about the combined effects of non-climatic human activities and anthropogenic climatic stressors on coastal ecosystems. The Great Bay Estuary is the single largest estuarine system on the Gulf of Maine and one of the most complex and recessed embayments found on all of the Atlantic Ocean.
Of the project, Howey says, "My research has increasingly focused on collaborating with natural scientists to look at ecosystem conditions within the context of the long and variable history of human population influence and to use these deep-time perspectives to improve our understanding of current anthropogenic change. The Anthropocene is an emergent concept or frame that encapsulates these ideas and emphasizes the permanency of the human impact on the earth. This frame, though, needs more theorizing and research by humanists and social scientists. Beyond trying to isolate when, we must also be asking what social, economic, and ideological processes led to our current state of dominant, potentially catastrophic, impact on the earth. How did past societies perceive, or fail to perceive, their impact on the natural world and how did this affect their quality of life? How do such historical trajectories inform us and ecosystems today?"