Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Shaleen Jain

Second Committee Member

Darren Ranco

Third Committee Member

Firooza Pavri

Additional Committee Members

Kirk Maasch

Jim Settele


Indigenous Peoples have been monitoring and adapting to uncertainty and change in their local regions for millennia, resulting in a holistic view of the interlinkages within the occupied complex socio-environmental systems. This research consists of investigating the overlapping scales of knowledge within Indigenous Australian seasonal calendars and colonial methods of hydroclimate assessment for improving adaptability to climate change impacts.

The analyses began with a sample of 25 Indigenous seasonal calendars providing a glimpse into interlinkages among biota, environment, and meteorology of the localised regions. Across the calendars, five themes of information and multiple categories within these themes became apparent and were explored for relevance to climate change and adaptability.

The next stage of research involved analysis and modelling of historical streamflow and observed historical streamflow for changes in trends and seasonality. Quantile regression and cluster analysis results indicate widespread decreases in streamflow across all seasons in the south half of the continent while streamflow in the northern region shows marked local coherence in increases and decreases. Trends within the lower and upper quantiles of flow distributions revealed unique sub-seasonal time windows in the extremes, underscoring that systematic assessment of the entire spectrum of flow levels, and change therein, are necessary to understand vulnerability to human and environmental systems.

Climate change is increasing the risk of droughts and bushfires through increasing variability and long-term trends in the local and remote ocean-atmospheric phenomena as represented by two climatic indices: Southern Ocean Index and Indian Ocean Dipole. These two indices, sea surface temperature, and historical Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index were used to assess the nature of variability and spatial patterns in the bushfire season, as delineated from five Indigenous seasonal calendars. Results indicated increased water stress across the four eastern locations during the bushfire season while the western location is experiencing a change in rainfall seasonality.

Indigenous place-based knowledge has substantial awareness of the holistic interlinkages that make up the biota, environment, and climate of a region. Collaboration with knowledge holders on resource stewardship has the potential to improve adaptability of humans and ecological systems to the increasing challenges brought by climate change.