220A Bruckner Hall
Karim-Aly S. Kassam is International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies. Along with his students, Dr. Kassam’s objective is to seamlessly merge teaching with applied research in the service of communities. Dr. Kassam and his students conduct human ecological research in partnership with indigenous peoples and local communities globally. They seek to innovate policy and practice in civil society by re-envisioning paradigms that are failing. Dr. Kassam’s current research efforts coalesce around areas of high altitude and latitude where ecological and socio-cultural change are critically affecting food, health, energy, and water sovereignty. Through participatory research, he and his students incorporate qualitative and quantitative techniques from the social and biophysical sciences as well as the humanities. Dr. Kassam’s research group takes a pluralistic approach, recognizing that effective solutions are based on multiple epistemological paradigms. His research group asserts that indigenous knowledge helps conserve biocultural diversity in ways that are beyond the reach of single-disciplinary approaches. By supporting communities as they anticipate and respond to change, Dr. Kassam’s research group engages complex ethical and policy challenges of the 21st century.
Dr. Kassam’s research focuses on the complex connectivity of human and environmental relations, addressing indigenous ways of knowing, food sovereignty, sustainable livelihoods, and climate change. This research is conducted in partnership with indigenous communities in the Alaskan, Canadian, and Russian Arctic and Sub-Arctic; the Pamir Mountains in Afghanistan and Tajikistan; and the rain forest in the south of India. By investigating the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, Dr. Kassam seeks to expand the foundations of the notion of pluralism. With the support of Northeastern States Research Cooperative (NSRC) and in collaboration with Mi’kmaq and Maliseet communities of northern Maine, Dr. Kassam (PI) is developing “Guidelines for Incorporating Biocultural Diversity into Northern Forest Resource Management.” In addition, research findings are also being developed into curriculum material for high school students in the state of Maine. Dr. Kassam has been working in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan for seven consecutive years. The purpose of his applied research is to assess the resilience capacity of local communities and develop relevant adaptation strategies resulting from biocultural changes such as climatic variation and socio-economic instability in the Pamir of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Key findings indicate a linkage between biocultural diversity and food and livelihood security. The data reveals useful information about how food security is sustained in a climate of conflict and dramatic environmental change. Along with Dr. Lassoie (PI), Dr. Kassam (co-PI) received NSF funding support for “Bridging Learners with Practitioners: Interdisciplinary Experiential Learning in Conservation Science using Conservation Bridge” to test a new coupled human ecological systems model of engaging students in conservation science using service learning educational paradigms. Dr. Kassam’s research group has developed undergraduate curriculum material in the form of web-based films and textual case studies. Specifically, Dr. Kassam has written and co-directed films on food, sharing and climate change in the Arctic; plant biodiversity as it relates to medicine and health sovereignty in the Pamir Mountains, and the role of sacred sites in ecological conservation.
Dr. Kassam firmly believes that students are not only consumers of information but also producers of insight. His teaching is focused on the relationship between socio-cultural and ecological systems. In teaching activities, he explores intellectual pluralism through multiple ways of knowing, human ecology, as well as the relationship between biological and cultural diversity. Dr. Kassam teaches ‘Ways of Knowing: Indigenous and Local Ecological Knowledge’ (NTRES/AIS/AMST3330 and NTRES 6330). Dr. Kassam also co-teaches with Dr. Blossey ‘Socio-cultural and Ecological Role of Diversity’ (NTRES 7330). Dr. Kassam also teaches ‘Introduction to American Indian Studies Part II: Contemporary Issues in Indigenous North America’ (AIS 1110). In addition to learning achieved through class lectures, academic publications, web–based films and case studies, service based applied research projects; Dr. Kassam collaborates with the Johnson Museum at Cornell University in using art to create a space for exploration. All courses that he teaches involve curated exhibits that examine and situate the socio-cultural within the ecological. Therefore, his students have an opportunity to engage ideas and concepts that link the humanities with the social as well as biophysical sciences.