Northwestern Events Calendar


CNAIR Virtual Brownbag Discussion with Marlene Brito-Millan

When: Friday, May 14, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Central

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Jennifer Michals   847.491.4133

Group: Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR)

Category: Multicultural & Diversity


12-1 PM | CST with Marlene Brito-Millan: Coral Reef Societies, Campesino Milpa and Complexity: Interweaving Ecology and Indigenous Lifeways towards Community-Driven Futures

An estimated ~80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity is located on Indigenous territories with Indigenous socio-environmental relationships being linked to biocultural stability around the world – a pattern that challenges classic notions of inevitable resource overexploitation as posited by the ‘tragedy of the commons’. Moreover, the pervasive idea of an incompatibility between humans and nature, or ‘the human problem’ within the sciences, is rooted in genocidal imperial logics. By interweaving elements from ecology, complexity science, and Indigenous lifeways, I show how coupling of societal and environmental systems within a computational model of a traditional Micronesian societal-reef system, allows for the emergence of stable coexistence between people and a coral-dominated reef ecosystem – a result that challenges the dominant perception of people as solely negative forces in ecosystems and recognizes the significance of community- and relationality-driven lifeways.

Marlene Brito-Millán is an ecologist whose research draws on ecology, complex dynamical systems, and Indigenous lifeways to generate a dynamically grounded multi-scale understanding of coupled human-environmental systems using computer modeling, learning sciences, and fieldwork (ecological and participatory action research). Her work spans coastal and terrestrial systems as she investigates the role of traditional management practices on spatio-temporal dynamics of socio-environmental systems, the significance of these modes of being, knowing, and subsisting for human adaptability in the context of climate change, and the dynamical impacts of globalization and development on the nature of human-environmental relationships and coupled systems overall. She obtained her BS in Biology at Northeastern Illinois University, and her MS and PhD at Scripps Institution of Oceanography / UC - San Diego. She is currently a Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellow jointly at Northwestern University (Dept. of Learning Sciences) and at the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero (Biochemical Sciences) in southwestern México where she is focused on the dynamics of Indigenous campesino socioenvironmental systems. She is a Mexican American woman of Nahua heritage, daughter of once undocumented campesinos from the subtropical Sierra Madre del Sur, wife of a hardworking afro-mexicano and a proud mother of two. She grew up in both the inner city of Chicago in a multi-ethnic working class neighborhood and immersed in the mountainside pueblos of southwestern Mexico. Marlene is also co-founder of a groundbreaking collective of natural and social activist scholars and artists committed to supporting decolonial environmental justice struggles for land/water/life and transformative action – the Center for Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice (CIEJ). She remains committed to not only engaging a rich spectrum of worldviews in her work but also to practicing solidarity science that centers grassroots organizing and resistance to neoliberal, extractivist and consumption-driven colonial logics and supports Indigenous resurgence and the continuation of relationality-driven, subsistence practices that allow for dignified and sustainable lifeways.


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