My research activities and practice focus broadly on human-environment interactions and more specifically on rural livelihoods, environmental change, marginalization, and social learning. My main interest lies in the theoretical and empirical intersections of political ecology, environmental justice, complex systems science, and participatory research. It is the result of a long-term commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship and extended periods of field work and capacity building in West Africa. I seek to understand the strategies small-scale resource users, primarily subsistence farmers and miners, employ in adapting to environmental stresses and coping with socio-economic, political, and institutional exclusion. I draw on participatory research (PR) as an epistemological framework that promotes critical engagement with marginalized communities (of space and practice). Over the years, I have found that participatory mapping, diagramming, environmental theatre, and participatory video are wonderful tools to open up alternative routes for 'doing' geography. My ultimate goal is to expand people’s opportunities for enhancing livelihood resilience.
Dr. Tschakert is Coordinating Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She is working on Chapter 13 (“Livelihoods and Poverty”) of the Working Group II Report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.
Current research interests and activities
1. Climate change adaptation, adaptive capacity, and anticipatory learning
- NSF-DRU: Anticipatory Learning for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience (ALCCAR), Tschakert PI, in collaboration with the University of Ghana, the University of Dar-es-Salaam, The Afram Plains Development Organization (APDO), and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Tanzania, 2009-2013
- Worldwide Universities Network (WUN): Limits to Adaptation, Tschakert PI, in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, University of Western Australia, and Monash University, 2011-2012
- Worldwide Universities Network (WUN): Gender and Climate Change, Tuana and Sachs PI, 2010-2012
- AESEDA: Climate and Society in Senegal, Fuentes PI, in collaboration with the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, 2011-2013
- USAID: Climate Change Collective Learning and Observatory Network Ghana (CCLONG), Tschakert PI, in collaboration with the University of Ghana, 2006-2010
At the core of the ALCCAR project in Ghana and Tanzania is a resilience-enhancing approach that emphasizes an iterative way of analyzing and learning about changes and uncertainties in the past, present, and future. By focusing explicitly on learning processes and decision-support tools, the aim of the project is to reverse the deterministic notion of presumably vulnerable groups as passive victims of climate change by highlighting people's skills, anticipatory capacity, and agency for adaptation planning rather than learning by shock. The project uses a series of learning activities such as walking journeys, participatory scenario building, layered mapping, and environmental theatre to enhance adaptive capacity and flexible planning under uncertainty.
The Limits to Adaptation project catalyzes novel interdisciplinary research on barriers and limits to climate change adaptation. We look specifically at the agro-economic, institutional, and justice factors that prevent successful adaptation, both in the short- and the long-term, and identify critical thresholds as to when adaptation may be neither feasible nor desirable but requiring the transformation of entire eco-regions and/or livelihoods. Such transformations imply difficult ethical decisions that are currently avoided in the adaptation community.
Research under CCLONG focused on enhancing adaptive capacity to climate change in rural communities in Ghana by building a sound information exchange infrastructure that brings the science of climate change and the implications for people and the environment to a level that is understandable, accessible, and beneficial to multiple parties. The main objectives were to understand local perceptions and experiences of climatic changes and extremes, examine determinants of adaptive capacity, and identify a variety of adaptation options for anticipated climate futures. The study followed a social/collective learning approach where project participants engage in learning activities and experiments that, ultimately, may enhance livelihood resilience to climatic and other stressors.
2. Marginalization, contamination, and justice in small-scale gold mining
- NSF-CNH: Climatic Extremes, Mining, and Mycobacterium Ulcerans: A Coupled Systems Approach (reBUild), Tschakert PI, collaboration with The University of Mines and Technology, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the University of Ghana, the Ghana Health Directorate (all in Ghana), and the University of Northern Texas and University of Idaho, 2009-2014.
In Ghana, up to half a million men and women are employed in the artisanal mining sector. Applying a political ecology and environmental justice lens, I examine the links between the contested use of mercury – the only extraction method available to artisanal gold miners – and their marginalization through large-scale corporations and public, academic, and state discourses. I use a participatory research design to expose how these persistent discourses that portray artisanal miners as contaminating criminals preclude them for being good environmental stewards. Recognizing the miners as knowledgeable peers allows me to create parity-fostering spaces for engagement and construct counter-narratives as prerequisites for livelihood resilience in this sector.
The reBUild project focuses on another ostracizing discourse that connects small-scale mining to the transmission of Buruli ulcer, a debilitating skin disease. Our team, including Erica Smithwick, Kamini Singha, Annmarie Ward, Leah Bug and others, use a complex systems approach to identify linkages and non-linear dynamics between land disturbance through mining and logging, flooding events that result in stagnant water, and human behavior in potential risk areas to unravel the transmission of this tropical disease. The project also entails a sister school component that links Penns Valley School District with elementaory and high schools in the partner communities in Ghana to explore linkages between environmental change and disease. For details, please see the project flyer and our project website.
3. Environmental/climatic changes and forced migration
- George H. Deike, Jr. Research Grant: Solastalgia: Environmentally-Induced Distress and Illness due to Climatic Changes among Africa's Poor, 2008-2010
In this body of research, I explore the psychological and emotional distress triggered by slow-onset, creeping environmental changes. Unlike other health-related impacts of climatic changes (e.g. vector-borne diseases), the role of sadness, depression, and desperation caused by significantly altered environments has so far been largely ignored. I am particularly interested in the intersection of environmental deterioration, internal migration, and livelihood transformation. In a case study in Ghana, men and women who have moved from the northern regions to slums and shanty towns in Accra, the capital, were interviewed with respect to their motives, expectation, and experiences. Current research focuses on environmentally-induced illness and potential loss of belonging - termed 'solastalgia' - of those who stay behind in increasingly 'pathological homes.' This work allows me to contribute to the contested debate on environmental refugees.
4. Terrestrial carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation
My doctoral research on soil carbon sequestration in the Old Peanut Basin, a semi-arid region in west-central Senegal, involved smallholders in subsistence, rain-fed farming systems. I investigated land use and soil fertility management practices, local knowledge bases, and the impact of historical and current policies on changes in land use and management strategies. I took soil and biomass carbon measurements, used CENTURY to model carbon stocks, and evaluated 'best' carbon management options.
As a post-doctoral fellow at McGill University, I worked on community-based carbon offset projects with indigenous (Emberá) smallholders at the tropical forest margin in Panama. This included the conceptualization of an entire landscape approach to carbon sequestration and strong institutional capacity building through collective learning. In a follow-up to my post-doc work, I am now involved in assessing risks, barriers, disadvantages for implementing REDD projects (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) in indigenous communities from a rights-based Perspective, with the same Emberá community in Panama.
- climate change adaptation
- resilience theory
- environmental justice
- climate communication
- development and climate ethics
- feminist theory and political ecology
- participatory (action) research
- collective learning
- 1998-2000, Research Assistant/Associate, CLIMAS, Institute for the Study of Planet Earth (ISPE), University of Arizona
- Ph.D. Arid Lands Resources Sciences, University of Arizona, 2003
- Mag. Phil, Geography and Economics, French; Karl-Franzens Universitat, Graz, Austria, 1991
Kathleen Dietrich (PhD in progress) works on the role of participatory scenario building and envisioning uncertain futures in highly vulnerable contexts in Ghana (RA on ALCCAR project); Water Management under Climate Variability and Change Perspectives of Communities in the Afram Plains Ghana (MS Geography in 2008);
Sarah Layton (Honors Undergraduate Thesis, in progress). Conflicting Understandings of HIV/AIDS among Namibian Women and Local Healthcare Providers.
Raymond Tutu, Ph.D. Geography (2011). Internal Migration, Risks and Social Resilience in Ghana.
Tania del Mar Lopez Marrero, Ph.D. Geography (2008). Adaptive Capacity and Resilience to Floods in the Caribbean: A Case Study of Two Flood-Prone Communities in Puerto Rico.
Jessica Lehman, Undergraduate Honors Thesis (2008). Inadequate Access to Social Services as an Element of Marginalization: The Case of Health Insurance for Small-Scale Gold Miners in Ghana.
Maureen Biermann. M.S. Geography (2009). Building Community Resilience: Integrating Climate Change into an NGO Agenda.
Darrell Fuhriman, M.S. Geography (2008). Dangerous Donations: Discarded Electronics in Accra, Ghana.
Jairus Rossi, M.S. Geography (2007). The (Re)Imagining of Jeju Island: Multi-Scale Redefinition of Place and the Jeju Free International City.
- GEOG 030
- EM SC 100
- GEOG 430
- GEOG 497 (incl. one class part of Parks & People Study Abroad Program)
- GEOG 497E
- EMSC 497W (CAUSE course, Ghana)
- Various graduate seminars (resilience, responses to global change, participatory research)
- 2013 Tuana, N., P. Tschakert and C. Sachs. Climate Change and Gender. Under contract with Zed Books (in progress).
- 2013 Tschakert, P., A.L. St. Clair, A. Lamadrid and B. van Oort. Conceptual and methodological reflections on vulnerability assessments: A comprehensive focus on inequality and capacity for change (in preparation).
- 2013 Tschakert, P., G. Ziervogel, S. Sallu, S. Shackleton, M. Alston and B. Koelle. Thresholds, traps, and transformation: A holistic conceptual framework for exploring barriers and limits to climate change adaptation (in preparation).
- 2013 Tschakert, P. and N. Tuana. Situated resilience: Reframing vulnerability and security in the context of climate change (in preparation).
- 2012 Tschakert, P. From impacts to embodied experiences: Tracing political ecology in climate change research. Danish Journal of Geography (forthcoming).
- 2012 Bee, B., M. Biermann, and P. Tschakert. Gender, development, and rights-based approaches: Lessons for climate change adaptation and adaptive social protection. In Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change. Alston, M. and K. Whittenbury (eds). Springer (forthcoming).
- 2012 Hausermann, H., P. Tschakert, E.A.H. Smithwick, D. Ferring, R. Amankwah, E. Klutse, J. Hagarty and L. Kromel. Contours of risk: Spatializing human behaviors to understand disease dynamics in changing landscapes. EcoHealth, 9 (3): 251-255.
- 2012 Tschakert, P. and M. Machado. Gender justice and rights in climate change adaptation: Opportunities and pitfalls. Ethics and Social Welfare. doi: 10.1080/17496535.2012.704929.
- 2012 Tschakert, P. and L.J. Shaffer. Ingredients for social-ecological resilience, poverty traps, and adaptive social protection. Proceedings for RIHN Symposium on "Beyond collapse: Transformation of human-environemntal relationships, past, present and future". Kyoto, Japan, October 2011.
- 2011 Tschakert, P., R. Tutu, and A. Alcaro. Embodied experiences of environmental and climatic changes in landscapes of everyday life in Ghana. Emotion, Space and Society. Doi: 10.1016/j.emospa.2011.11.001.
- 2011 del Mar López Marrero, T. and P. Tschakert. From theory to practice: building more resilient communities in flood-prone areas. Environment and Urbanization, 23 (1): 229-249.
- 2010 Tschakert P. and K. Dietrich. Anticipatory learning for climate change adaptation and resilience. Ecology and Society, 15(2): 11. [online] URL: www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss2/art11/
- 2010 Tschakert P., R. Sagoe, G. Darko, and S.N. Codjoe. Floods in the Sahel: An analysis of anomalies, memory, and anticipatory learning. Climatic Change, 103 (3-4): 471-502.
- 2010 Tschakert P. Mercury in fish: A critical examination of gold mining and human contamination in Ghana. International Journal of Environment and Pollution, 41 (3/4): 214-228. Special Issue on 'Small-Scale Gold Mining, Mercury, the Environment and Human Health: Challenges and Ways Forward in Rural Ghana'.
- 2010 Tschakert P. and R. Tutu. Solastalgia: Environmentally-induced distress and migration due to climate change among Africa’s poor. In T. Afifi and J. Jäger (Eds.) Environment, Forced Migration and Social Vulnerability. International Organisation for Migration. Springer, pp. 57-72.
- 2010 Ericksen, P., Hansen, J., Thompson, J., Gordon, L., Tschakert P. et al. What have we learned about adaptation in food systems? In Ericksen, P., Ingram, J. and D. Liverman (Eds.) Food Security and Global Environmental Change. Earthscan, pp. 115-143.
- 2010 Adu-Bredu S., Abekoe M. K., Tachie-Obeng E. and P. Tschakert. Carbon Stock under Four Land-Use Systems in Three Varied Ecological Zones in Ghana. World Soil Resources Report 104 (Africa and the Carbon Cycle. Proceedings of the Open Science Conference on “Africa and Carbon Cycle: the CarboAfrica project”. Accra (Ghana) 25-27 November 200), FAO, Rome, Italy. 209 pp.
- 2009 Tschakert P. Digging deep for justice: A radical re-imagination of the artisanal mining sector in Ghana. Antipode, 41 (4): 706-740.
- 2009 Tschakert P. and R. Sagoe. Mental models (concept maps): Understanding the causes and consequences of climate change. Participatory Learning and Action, Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change, 60: 154-159.
- 2009 Tschakert P. 2009. Communities as agents and shapers of their own climate adaptation. Climate Lite, August. Climate Change & Development Centre. Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK. vlog at http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/climate-lite
- 2009 Tschakert P. Recognizing and nurturing artisanal mining as a viable livelihood. Resources Policy, 34 (1-2): 24-31.
- 2009 Tschakert P. and N. Laliberte. Contaminated identities: Understanding human and environmental risks and livelihood options among small-scale gold miners in Ghana. In Environment and Health in developing Countries: Managing an Emerging Crisis (Eds. I.N. Luginaah and E.K. Yanful). Springer, Netherlands, pp. 65-75.
- 2008 Tschakert P., E. Huber-Sannwald, D. Ojima, M. Raupach, and E. Schienke. Holistic, adaptive management of the terrestrial carbon cycle at local and regional scales. Global Environmental Change, 18 (1): 128-141.
- 2007 Tschakert P. and K. Singha. Contaminated identities: Mercury and marginalization in the artisanal mining sector of Ghana. Geoforum, 38 (6): 1304-1321.
- 2007 Tschakert P. Views from the vulnerable: Perceptions on climatic and other stressors in the Sahel. Global Environmental Change, 17: 381-396.
- 2007 Tschakert P. Environmental services and poverty reduction: Options for smallholders in the Sahel. Agricultural Systems, 94 (1): 75-86.
- 2007 Tschakert P., O. Coomes, and C. Potvin. Indigenous livelihoods, slash-and-burn agriculture, and carbon stocks in Eastern Panama. Ecological Economics, 60(4): 807-820.
- 2007 Potvin C., P. Tschakert, and K. Kirby. Land use and land management in Ipetí-Emberá: Estimation of the baseline scenario. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 12 (8): 1341-1362.