Future Arctic Ecosystems revisited or reindeer herding at the verge of extinction?

30 Oct, 14:00, Rovaniemi, Arktikum, 2nd floor, coffee room.

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The world’s northernmost herding horses? at work in herding reindeer, Kharaulakh, Laptev Sea

In this Wednesday Afternoon Coffee Chat (WACC) Florian Stammler will have a dialogue session with Aytalina Ivanova from Yakutsk reflecting on Arctic research agendas. What was supposed to be the first trip in a new multi-party consortium on scenarios of a changing Arctic became an example of how research agendas can – and should – change in response to the concerns of those people with whom we work in the field. During the first research trip, it turned out that rather than the project topic – people in the field were concerned about other things that are more immediately related to their future as a community. You are welcome to join and find out what worries people even more than the changing Arctic Climate. This WACC will feature impressive photos and videos from a very extreme environment on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, with nomads who unite tradition and innovation in very original ways. All welcome, coffee and biscuits will be served.

Do animal livelihoods in the Arctic suffer from global warming?

This was one of the questions covered in an interdisciplinary exhibition on the effects of global warming and melting permafrost in Yakutia, on display in the Hokkaido museum of northern peoples. The exhibition with the title Thawing Earth – Global Warming in Central Yakutia is a nice example of co-production of knowledge between natural and social scientists and outreach experts, in a Japanese research project entitled “Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS)”. Organisers Atsushi Nakada from the Hokkaido Museum and Hiroki Takakura from the Centre for Northeast Asian Studies in Japan connected the available science evidence on climate change in Central Yakutia with practitioners’ knowledge on the effects. For a western visitor to the

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these bumps are one of the reasons of less grazing land available for hay-making

Continue reading “Do animal livelihoods in the Arctic suffer from global warming?”

Domestication revisited?

Domestication is by most used as a term for the biologically traceable subordination of animals under human control. But anthropologists have for long argued that there are also social definitions of domestication. Very influential was the one by Tim Ingold (2000), who classified domestication as either characterise between a relation of trust or a relation of domination between humans and animals. A distinguished group of researchers spent two days at a conference in very creative and intellectually demanding talks about this issue.

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from left to right: Shiaki Kondo, Shiro Sasaki, David Anderson, Hiroki Takakura, Juha Kantanen, Hugh Beach, Florian Stammler, Aytalina Ivanova, Yuka Oishi, Charles Stepanoff

The event was hosted by Tohoku University in Japan (see here for a programme), and co-organised by Director Hiroki Takakura together with Florian Stammler. In combination, we are happy that we managed to have invited some of the principal contributors of recent debates on domestication from various disciplines. In a way the meeting was partly like a continuation of debates that we had at recent seminars of the Finnish Academy’s Arktiko programme in November 2011, and then at the ArcArk final seminar in Rovaniemi in December 2018.

It was remarkable that all the recent re-considerations by these scholars that became prominent in more recent years agreed on several points and argued for overcoming the dichotomy between trust and domination. So what do David Anderson’s et al (2017) idea Continue reading “Domestication revisited?”

Job for Arctic Anthropologists in Europe? Oulu

The University of Oulu is strengthening their Arctic profile and have announced several jobs. Let’s hope they will hire anthropologists eagerly! It depends on how many good anthropologists will apply, so, dear colleagues – go for it!

Tenure Track Positions in Arctic Interactions Research, University of Oulu, Finland
Are you the new generation of premier Arctic scientists with ambition for strengthening your international experience? Do you want to make new discoveries that are vital for the sustainability of the Arctic environment and our whole planet?

We are now looking for excellent and enthusiastic scientists from various research fields to join our Arctic Interactions (ArcI) research community at the University of Oulu. ArcI is a multidisciplinary research effort aimed at creating understanding and mitigating global change in the Arctic by bridging different research disciplines within natural, social and technical sciences. This international and globally significant research hub will produce new discoveries and cutting-edge research that will help solve some of the most pressing societal challenges in the Arctic.

Research areas

Our three main research themes (RT) include 1) Global change & northern environments, 2) Human-environmental relationship, and 3) Sustainable systems, resource use and development. Within these research themes we are offering tenure track positions in five different research areas:

• Biodiversity change and ecosystem health (RT1)

• Earth system sciences, ecohydrology and human societal resiliency (RT1)

• Cultural histories and traditional knowledge of resource use (RT2)

• Resource management in Arctic environment (RT3)

• Arctic architecture and environmental adaptation (RT3)

The tenure track positions are open to highly talented scientists with excellent potential for a successful scientific career. We invite strong candidates from various scientific fields, such as hydrology, ecology, biology, geography, geology, paleoclimatology, environmental sciences, environmental engineering, civil engineering, architecture, social sciences, archeology, cultural studies etc. Based on your experience and competence, you can be placed at the level of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor or Distinguished Professor. The positions include a start-up package for hiring a postdoctoral fellow and a PhD student.

What we offer

We are a dedicated and dynamic group of scientists working together towards a more sustainable and intelligent future. Our university’s long traditions in Arctic research and location close to the Arctic offer unique conditions for doing research. Currently, the ArcI community include 30 senior scientists with versatile expertise and background, which creates an inspiring working environment full of opportunities for wide variety of research. We foster a culture of collaboration, both within our university and with our international partner universities.

About Oulu

The City of Oulu is Northern Finland’s largest and oldest city, with a population of over 200,000. Oulu offers an easy-going living environment with good connections from anywhere. As the world’s northernmost tech hub, Oulu has a highly educated and innovative workforce, thanks to one of the biggest and most multidisciplinary universities in Finland.

How to apply

Please submit your application and relevant enclosures through our online recruitment system latest on February 28 2019. Please follow the links on the list of research areas to find individual position descriptions.

More information

Director: Prof. Bjørn Kløve, Kvantum Institute, University of Oulu, bjorn.klove(at)oulu.fi

Vice Director: Prof. Jeffrey Welker, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu,

jeffrey.welker(at)oulu.fi

Coordinator: Jouko Inkeröinen, Kvantum Institute, University of Oulu, jouko.inkeroinen(at)oulu.fi

http://www.oulu.fi/arci

 

Keeping Arctic animals makes sense!

The Arctic Ark team has presented their work of the last four years in human-animal relations in the Arctic at the Finnish Academy’s final Arktiko Seminar. Studying people’s relations to their domestic pastoral animals in the Arctic using approaches from anthropology and genetics has resulted in some surprising results:

Our work with reindeer, horse and cattle herders in Lapland, Arkhangelsk region and Yakutia has shown that

  1. people in the Arctic have long relied and still rely on more animal diversity than reindeer and fish
  2. a very similar set of properties of their pastoral animals is valued by the herders across regions and also across species: the independence, the autonomy of the animals, and the very low level of human care that the animals need in comparison to other more southerly animals are particularly valued. This also comes with the plus that all these animals can wander off and search for their own food, grazing

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    ArcArk coordinators Juha Kantanen (genetics) and Florian Stammler together with Alexandra Grigorieva (Yurta Mira) in front of the ArcArk poster on the viability of horse-herding

    on sometimes very limited pasture resources. Imported breeds of pastoral animals, like Holstein cattle or Arabian horses would not be able to survive on such resources. And particularly, their would not be able to graze on pastures covered under snow. This is what Sakha horses can, which you do not need to feed at temperatures down to minus 60.

  3. that in different regions the same species of animals is used in a very diverse way, and this use is culturally determined. We find that the broader the use value of the animal is in the specific society, the more resilient the animal husbandry is to different socio-economic shocks on the human-animal livelihood. A good example for this is the horse: in Yakutia people value the horse as a source of meat, of transport, racing, prestige, milk, hair and spiritual connection to the land. This combination of broad use-application of the horse has led to a steady grow of horse numbers and steady demand for horse products on the market, making this an even economically viably livelihood. On the other hand, in Finland and in Mezen (Arkhangelsk), local horse breeds have lost their economic value almost entirely, since motorised transport replaced them in agriculture and forestry. In these cases, where people do not eat horse meat, the only use – value left for the horses is as a source for tourism and racing.

Continue reading “Keeping Arctic animals makes sense!”

Oktoberfest Munich – is it all about human-horse relations?

Why would we write about the Oktoberfest on this blog? It turns out that there is an aspect of it that is closely related to the interest in one of our current projects – Arctic Ark – where we are interested in the genetic diversity of agricultural animals and the ways in which people make use of specific animal breeds’ traits. It turns out that a lot in the Oktoberfest is about – human-horse relations, because it goes back to a horse-race on 17 October 1810, as our PhD student Markus Przybyl writes below.

But first some of the basics:

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Basic numbers on the Oktoberfest, from the Norwegian inflight magazine September

Here below is Markus’ report, sort of a historical ethnography, with some interesting links to Arctic and Sámi traditions. All opinions expressed below are his, and comments here are welcome! Continue reading “Oktoberfest Munich – is it all about human-horse relations?”

International conference on “Local horse breeding in Russia in the past, present and future”, June 22-24, 2018

It is worth travelling north in mid June to experience one of the wonders of the Arctic. It is polar day when the sun disappears only for a very short time under the horizon and the sunset is fading into a sunrise for hours during the night colouring the horizon in a million different shades of blue, red and yellow.

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Mezen mare with its foal in Lampozhnya, photo: Christian Vagt

I enthusiastically confirmed when I received an invitation to visit a conference on local horse breeds in Russia often threatened by extinction. Accompanied by my friend and photographer Christian Vagt I travelled the long road to the old Russian town of Mezen. Small workshop-like symposia in contrast to big international conferences allow for a more intense exchange of ideas. They enable to establish close contacts among colleagues that often grow into future collaborations or even friendship.

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The author speaking about human animal symbiotic adaptation in the Arctic, photo: Christian Vagt

This conference was organised by the leading specialist on the Mezen horse breed Irina Borisovna Yur’eva of the Arkhangelsk Scientific Institute of Agriculture of the Russian Academy of Sciences. One of the main impressions left by the event was that around the local horse breeds in Russia you also always meet a special breed of people – real enthusiasts who fight not only for their cause, but are also amazingly communicative and social.

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the conference organiser Irina Borisovna Yur’eva at the conference dinner, photo: Christian Vagt

People of different scientific institutions from Russia, Belorussia, Norway and Finland visited the conference in the regional centre – the town of Mezen – and on the second and third day of the conference travelled to the nearby village of Lampozhnya. Here, at one of the oldest settlements on the Mezen River they witnessed a two days horse tourism competition, where local people and guests compete with their own and their horses’ skills in riding and hiking.

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Participants of the competition with their Mezen horses, photo: Christian Vagt

I presented the results of the Anthropology Team of the Arctic Centre Rovaniemi as the comparative research on human-animal relations in the Arctic Ark project. We contrasted the sociocultural significance and vernacular breeding practices of three different horse breeds and the forms of adaptation of the human-animal relationship in a changing Arctic.

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Cultural program, photo: Christian Vagt

Colleagues coming mostly from agricultural sciences and biology were greatly interested in the insights in symbiotic adaptation of humans and horses and the idea of distance and independence as important for social relations in the North.

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Theory and practice hand in hand, photo: Christian Vagt

We could witness a heated discussion between two conceptual factions of colleagues – one promoting maximum contact with animals as the goal of horse breeding and the other claiming that you neither have to ride nor manage the horses’ behaviour with that much scrutiny in order to understand and build relations with the animal.

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The founder of the village Lampey brings the trophies, photo: Christian Vagt

Other, yet not much studied differences in human relations with horses involve gender aspects. We very well know the transition of horse breeding from am masculine domain in an agriculturalist context to the favourite hobby of girls in an urban setting. There seems to also be a distinction of between those riders and hobby breeders who favour mares and those that favour stallions.

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Q&A after the presentation, photo: Christian Vagt

Russia is divided into regions where horsemeat is the most important economic asset of horse breeding but also of high cultural value, and others, where it is considered almost a taboo or symbol of economic and cultural decline to breed horses for meat. I was surprised to learn that Russia is an importer of horsemeat from abroad and often meat of low quality is brought into the country. While in Norway or Finland horses are mostly held for the growing business of breeding sports horses, the local horse breeding in Russia shows the full range of the different uses of horses from their role as working horses in agriculture and pastoralism, in meat production, recreation and tourism as well as hippotherapy, to its use in cultural events and sports.

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River crossing to the village of Lampozhnya, photo: Christian Vagt

Some links to institutions, which took part in the conference (only in Russian):

The Arkhangelsk Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture of the Primorsky Branch of Federal State Budgetary Institution on Science (FSBIS) Federal Research Centre of Complex Study of the Arctic (FRCCSA) of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) – the leading institution of research on the Mezen horse coordinated by Irina Borisovna Yur’eva.

The director Alexander Mikhailovich Zaicev and other staff of the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Horse Breeding which is the leading institution researching local horse breeds in Russia.

The Vavilov Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Laboratory of Comparative Animal Genetics

The Russian State Agrarian University – Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy

The Scientific-Art Museum of Horse Breeding in Moscow:

The Zoological Museum of Moscow University, head of research Natalia Spasskaya

Sever – the information resource of the Mezen region

Animal breeding and genetics group of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, head of research group Gunnar Klemetsdal

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The author with the heraldic animal of the town of Mezen, photo: Christian Vagt

 

Problems of gigantic reindeer slaughter plan for Yamal-Nenets nomads

The recent announcement by the Yamal government to artificially reduce the number of reindeer in the Yamal-Nenets Okrug by a quarter of a million animals has caused a discussion in Russia that has now spilled over to the international arena. The Siberian Times has thoroughly reported about the plans both from the pro and the contra side.

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Sometimes reindeer herds in Yamal look huge, but actually nomadism on reindeer requires a lot of transport animals. Will herders be allowed to keep them?

Continue reading “Problems of gigantic reindeer slaughter plan for Yamal-Nenets nomads”

Meeting the world’s youngest farmers of native cattle in the world’s coldest inhabited place

During fieldwork for our Arc Ark research project, I walk the street in Sakkyryr, the central village of the Eveno-Bytantay Ulus (District) of the Sakha Republic, Yakutia, East Siberia. I stop to take a picture of two beautiful white cows as they feed on something I can’t quite identify, out on the street at minus 20 degrees

The cows Khatalyk and Dais feeding outdoors
The cows Khatalyk and Dais feeding outdoors

Continue reading “Meeting the world’s youngest farmers of native cattle in the world’s coldest inhabited place”