Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Maureen A. Scully

Second Advisor

Paul Kirshen

Third Advisor

J. Cedric Woods


The story of the Gulf of Mexico began during the Late Triassic breakup of Pangea which resulted in the collapse of the Appalachian Mountains. This earth story is told through layers of strata and sediment carried by rivers into the Gulf Basin. Humans migrated and settled on the Gulf of Mexico 30,000 years ago. These humans observed, interpreted and coded the Gulf’s geological, hydrological and cosmological phenomena through storytelling, which embedded humans within earth’s story as co-actants, inseparable from earth systems. Indigenous presence and praxis remain, overlaid with invasion, colonization, genocide, forced removal and enslavement. Climate change and its impact on coastal systems threatens all life in the Gulf. Storytelling of the present observes, interprets and codes the poisoning of complex air-ocean-land interfaces, estuaries, wetlands, barrier islands and marine life.

My research examines the praxis of storytelling in tribal and place-based communities along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I approach this transdisciplinary work in collaboration and reciprocity with communities who use storytelling to recreate and transfer knowledge, and to transform behaviors of resilience, resistance, resourcing and restoration. In my three-paper dissertation, the first paper lays out the landscape for the study, combining geography with the layers of stories that bring a topography and a place to life. The second paper introduces the communities of Turkey Creek, Poarch Creek, and Isle de Jean Charles, whose approaches to resilience through history, stories, political action, and ongoing commitment to justice and self-determination bring forth new meanings and practices of resilience. In the third paper, I use the metaphor of gumbo to explore traditions, resources, and the practice of doing transdisciplinary research. Overall, my dissertation honors indigenous knowledge and points toward new ways forward in the face of climate change.


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