Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2009 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Indigenous and Scientific Water Management: Fusing Research on Urban Headwater Transformations in Northern Thailand and Metropolitan Baltimore
McGrath, Brian
Co-Authors: Brian McGrath and Danai Thaitakoo with Mateo Pinto

Abstract: As part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES), a Long Term Ecological Research project which conducts research in metropolitan Baltimore as an ecological system, scientists have measured the effect of urbanization on entire watersheds, such as Gwynns Falls, from headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay (Elmore and Kaushal, 2008). In general, urbanization has buried many seasonal headwater streams and has contributed to the erosion of extant streams due to flashy urban storm run-off in what was a slow moving, beaver dominated landscape (Brush, 2009). This chapter fuses research in Baltimore with human ecological technologies practiced in Northern Thailand. Anthropologist Shigeharu Tanabe studied one such ecological technology practiced for centuries in Chiang Mai called Muang Fai. More recent, a Royally inspired community project of forest regeneration was successfully completed through small headwater dam building in nearby Lampang. The authors report on a recently conducted survey of the sites Tanabe documented in the 1970s and the results of the community reforestation project in relation to design proposals for three neighborhoods in Baltimore. The ecological research in Baltimore and the ethnographic research in Chiang Mai are integrated in this essay in order to argue for new sustainable design practices in urban headwaters.