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Our latest

The HSL is committed to collaborative, ethical, inclusive research and to open science practices. For more about our commitments and priorities, see our lab manual.

Here we overview current projects led by members of the HSL. For more details on our collaborative work, see Team, Publications, or SciComm.

Dispersion (a measure of temporal autocorrelation) in precipitation in Burkina Faso with district-level remittance data overlaid

Climate change adaptation

How humans respond to climate change is inherently a cultural process, affected by innovation, modification, retention, and transmission (Pisor et al. 2023). Even the way we construct infrastructure is a product of innovations and modifications we’ve kept and trained others in over time. At the HSL, we work to understand how climate change adaptation unfolds, what works where, and how we can best support communities as they respond (Pisor et al. 2022). See this recent talk of Anne’s for an overview.

Assembling what we know

In recent special issues led by PI Anne Pisor in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences and American Journal of Human Biology, Anne, her fellow editors, and issue contributors highlight how humans past and present have responded to climate change, with potential insight for future responses that can better protect well-being and livelihoods. Anne summarizes some of the key findings here.

Characterizing climate variability

Understanding what adaptations work under what conditions requires being clearer in what we mean by “conditions.” With collaborators in the earth sciences, PI Anne Pisor is making predictions about what features of climate variability predict the kinds of climate adaptations people use successfully, then modeling these predictions with empirical data. In One Earth, she and her collaborators offer a toolkit for how to compare climate time series with adaptation data to improve inference. Empirical tests are forthcoming.

Leader with Beach Management Unit sign

Long-distance relationships

Long-distance relationships - social connections spanning space - have been a central building block of human sociality since at least the origin of Homo sapiens. Importantly, long-distance relationships may or may not cross group boundaries - they are not the same as intergroup relationships and may have served different functions over our evolutionary history (Pisor & Ross 2022). However, whether talking about long-distance or intergroup relationships in humans, these relationships are flexible: humans are not always hostile towards people from other places, nor are we always friendly towards them (Pisor & Ross 2023). In a recent blog post, PI Anne Pisor underscores why understanding the flexibility of intergroup relationships is so important - for how we characterize human sociality, for policy, and for how we do science itself.

Tanga Sociality and Fisheries Project

The TSFP, directed by postdoc Dr Kris Smith and co-directed by HSL PI Dr Anne Pisor and frequent collaborator Dr Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, studies the connection between people’s short-distance and long-distance relationships and their use of their natural resources. We find that long-distance relationships help people get occasional but big infusions of capital, underscoring the importance of social relationships for accessing non-local resources (Smith et al 2023). Kris summarizes these findings in a recent blog post.

The TSFP emphasizes local collaboration, often putting our heads together with local NGO Mwambao Coastal Community Network and communities.

Godson Hugo and godmother Anne

Cooperative relationships with non-kin and chosen kin

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they’re not wrong: humans have long cooperated with unrelated friends, neighbors, and business partners to benefit themselves and their families (Hubbard et al. 2023). Thinking hard about and studying relationships with non-kin is a central theme at the HSL. For example, PhD student Ollie Shannon is studying how chosen family impacts people’s well-being in Queer communities in the Western US.