May 16, 2017

Contact: Terry Jones

Cal Poly to Host Talk on Benefits of Aboriginal Burning Practices

Cal Poly alumnus Brian F. Codding will visit his alma mater May 30 to discuss contemporary burning practices among a group of Aboriginal Australians — and how the technique could help inform how fire is managed in California.

Codding, a professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, will present a talk, “Wildfire: An Ecological Perspective from Aboriginal Australia,” from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Bioresource and Agriculture Engineering Building (No. 8), Room 123, on campus. 

In western North America, wildfires are generally viewed as a natural hazard that threatens property and life. However, humans have a long history of using fire as a tool to modify the environment for their benefit. Codding will discuss how fire went from something useful to something feared.

In this talk, he will examine contemporary burning practices among a group of Aboriginal Australians in the Western Desert, where fire is used to hunt small game. The practice also reduces fuel loads, limits climate-driven wildfires and increases local biodiversity. The result is a resilient ecosystem. The Australian case could help inform how fire is managed in California, potentially providing an avenue to develop healthier ecosystems that no longer carry the threat of devastating wildfires. 

Codding’s work combines ecological approaches in ethnography and archaeology to explain variation in present and past human behavior, focusing on the dynamic interactions between human decisions and the local environment.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts and the departments of Social Sciences, History and Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences.


About the Cal Poly Social Sciences Department
At Cal Poly, the Social Sciences Department focuses on practical training and critical thinking skills. The department offers degrees in anthropology-geography and sociology, with the opportunity to concentrate in a specific focus area. Students are taught to bridge the gap between classroom learning and the real world through internships, study abroad opportunities, service learning and senior projects.

About Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts
The College of Liberal Arts comprises 15 departments and two interdisciplinary programs, offering highly selective programs in the arts, humanities, communications and social sciences. Providing nearly one-third of the university’s instruction, the college serves as an essential component of liberal arts education for all students at Cal Poly. The college fosters excellence within its cutting-edge disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses while diversifying, extending and enriching the broader polytechnic environment.


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