National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Leslie A. Reeder-Myers

Affiliation: Temple University

Leslie A. Reeder-Myers is Assistant Professor and Director of the Anthropology Laboratory and Museum, and Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Sustainable Communities, at Temple University, and Research Associate with Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in archaeology from the Southern Methodist University and her B.A. from Tufts University. Her research interests are archaeology, historical ecology, environmental anthropology, sea level rise, climate change, and how human societies interact with their environment over decades, centuries, and millennia.  Her publications include Deception Island: Archaeology of Anyapax’, Anacapa Island, California (with T.C. Rick, 2018), and Human-Environmental Dynamics on the Atlantic Coast of North America  (ed. with J. Turck and T.C. Rick, 2019). 


Twenty-first century climate change threatens all kinds of cultural heritage—archaeological sites, historic monuments and buildings, traditional subsistence or cultural practices, among many others. This is especially urgent in coastal areas where the triple threat of rising sea level, more powerful coastal storms, and growing coastal populations create a monumental challenge. At the same time, though, people are placing a greater value on cultural heritage and gaining a better understanding of how precarious these resources are. In this talk, I will discuss global efforts to, first, understand the scale of the problem and, second, decide how to address it. Archaeologists cannot overcome this challenge alone, nor is it possible to save everything. We must develop strong community partnerships and think creatively about what is truly valuable in cultural heritage. I will specifically discuss my research in coastal California and the importance of partnering with indigenous communities to decide what matters most in cultural heritage.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

There are lots of great organizations doing work related to this talk around the world. I would suggest looking at the Florida Public Archaeology Network ( and the Scotish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust (

Fisheries lie at the nexus of several natural and human systems, where climate, ecology, cultural foodways, economics, and politics come together. Understanding how these systems interact with each other is essential to create and maintain resilient fisheries, which will be a key adaptation in the 21st century. Research at the Selin Farm site in coastal Honduras shows how people developed and maintained a resilient fishery at Guaimoreto Lagoon for several centuries, using a variety of political, economic, and cultural strategies. People at Selin Farm were experts at manipulating identity and power, with important consequences for the ecosystems in which they lived and the resources they relied on for survival. Ultimately, the Selin Farm system fell apart, because of a complex combination of failed ecological and social capital. I will discuss the implications of this research for modern efforts to create resilience in small-scale fisheries and the importance of maintaining connections between the indigenous Pech community and the Guaimoreto ecosystem.

The field of marine historical ecology explores ocean ecosystems and global fisheries through the integration of “modern” sciences like conservation, ecology, and biology with “historic” sciences like archaeology, history, and paleobiology. Marine historical ecology has been incredibly important in illustrating the impact of shifting baselines in coastal ecosystems all over the world, but a focus on the economic and ecological value of resources tends to cut out the indigenous people who used coastal resources for millennia. In this talk, I will focus on oyster fisheries from Australia and North America, exploring the role that indigenous people played in past management, the impact of colonialism on these socio-cultural systems, and the perspectives of indigenous people on modern fisheries management. I will illustrate the importance of integrating perspectives of environmental justice into broader archaeological, historical ecological, and conservation research and recognizing the crucial role that Indigenous communities must play in oyster conservation and management today.

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