By McKenna Litynski with a Preface by Susan Langley


Normally the ACUA Deep Thoughts Blogs are written by members of the Board, Associate or Institutional Members, or our Graduate Student Associate Members. This blog is an exception because it is written by my graduate student, McKenna Litynski, who organized a virtual conference on climate change. I take great pleasure in introducing McKenna, who will be graduating from St. Mary’s College of Maryland this Spring 2021 with double majors in Anthropology and Environmental Studies and a minor in Museum Studies. She will be pursuing graduate studies in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming beginning in the Fall 2021.

Over the past year she completed two Independent Studies courses under my supervision. The first involved developing educational materials for the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network (MACAN), a five-state organization focusing on the impacts of ocean acidification (OA), including a public education handout and a lesson plan for a high-school level OA experiment available on the MACAN website ( and on its news blog  In addition, McKenna collected documentary resources about maritime archaeology and climate change which have been added to the North American Heritage at Risk Committee’s (NAHAR) resource files and she circulated a questionnaire to a broad range of maritime archaeologists regarding the impacts of climate change they might be experiencing and synthesized the results.  She has made presentations on both the lesson plan and the questionnaire to MACAN and NAHAR and received a great deal of positive feedback and praise. The conference, which is the subject of her blog, is the product of her second Independent Study course. It was inspired by a workshop hosted by scholars in Australia about Climate Change: Heritage and Marine Processes (CCHAMP) which she attended in the Fall 2020.  Not only was the conference very successful, it provided the connections and impetus for a number of interdisciplinary projects in the near future.

Summary of an International Virtual Conference – Climate Change and Maritime Heritage: Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Beneath the surface of our oceans and other maritime environments lie important physical evidence of our human past, with just a few examples including shipwrecks, lost settlements, and indigenous heritage.  However, these aspects of our maritime cultural landscapes are at risk of vanishing at the hands of climate change. Aspects of climate change such as sea level rise, erosion, ocean acidification, and the increased intensity and frequency of storms are not only threatening our coastal and submerged archaeological sites, but also our intangible heritage such as oral traditions, the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and changes in land use. If our maritime cultural landscapes disappear as a result of climate change, so do the valuable lessons that we can learn from studying these complex cultures and the ways in which they can inform us about the present and future. The “Climate Change and Maritime Heritage: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” international virtual conference that took place on April 5 and 6, 2021 Eastern Time, brought together practitioners across the globe to discuss the impacts of climate change on submerged archaeological resources through an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach. The conference provided the opportunity to share new research findings and enhance our knowledge of climate change and its negative impacts on maritime cultural landscapes. Both sessions were recorded and are available at the links below together with the conference program and full list of speakers and presentation abstracts. The two sessions are briefly summarized below.

First Session: April 5, 2021 EDT

            The first session of the conference consisted of seven 20-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers after each presentation.  Randy Larsen, professor of chemistry and program coordinator for the environmental studies program at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) introduced the new marine sciences program at SMCM and how it has the ability to aid in climate change related research.  Tom Dawson and Joanna Hambly, principal research fellows at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, presented on recording heritage along Scotland’s eroding coast and how the SCAPE trust has been working with communities to locate and record coastal and intertidal sites.  Zachary Cannizzo, with the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation in support of NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries and NOAA’s Climate Program Office; and Madeline Roth, CPC under contract to NOAA’s maritime heritage program, focused their presentation on incorporating climate change into the management of NOAA’s federally protected underwater maritime heritage and cultural resources.  David Anderson, professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, presented on addressing climate change and the loss of cultural heritage through the perspective of the southeastern United States.  Christina Goethel, PhD candidate and researcher at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, discussed the effects of ocean acidification on pacific arctic bivalves and implications for marine heritage.  David Gregory, senior researcher and visiting research professor with the National Museum of Denmark, focused his presentation on how climate change and the spread and growth of wood boring organisms can degrade underwater cultural heritage.  Lastly, Jeneva Wright, Senior Lead Underwater Archaeologist with Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Partnerships and Innovations, presented on an ontology of the USS Arizona’s preservation in a changing climate. 

Second Session: April 6, 2021 EDT

            The second session of the conference consisted of six 20-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers after each presentation.  Kurt Bennett, maritime archaeologist with the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA), focused his presentation on how AIMA aims to work constructively with the marine sciences and heritage practitioners to enhance, engage, and support the UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.  Deb Shefi, assistant curator with the Western Australian Museum; and Vicki Richards, manager at the Western Australian Museum, discussed the development of sea-CCHAMP (Climate Change: Heritage and Marine Processes) Project which is a cross disciplinary study between the marine science sector and maritime heritage practitioners.  Matthew Carter, research director with the Major Projects Foundation, focused his presentation on the legacy of Second World War; the negative impacts of climate change on potentially polluting wrecks, and the ways in which the Major Projects Foundation is working to mitigate the impact of oil spills by potentially polluting wrecks as a means of safeguarding marine ecosystems, cultures, and livelihoods.  Dean Greeno, assistant aboriginal heritage advisor with CMS Centre for Marine Socioecology and Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania, discussed climate change and its impacts on maritime archaeology and Lutruwita traditional practices such as the making of necklaces from the Maireener shell.  Andy Viduka, a PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of New England, discussed the Gathering Information via Recreational and Technical (GIRT) Scientific Divers citizen science project for underwater cultural heritage and the importance of engaging and informing the public to provide a scale and resolution necessary to understand environmental change on submerged cultural heritage.  The last speaker of the second session included Brad Duncan, an adjunct senior lecturer at the University of New England, who discussed maritime and riverine heritage sites and how they can be considered climate change indicators in NSW and Victoria in Australia.  A discussion period led by Deb Shefi followed these presentations, which provided the opportunity to discuss present and future actions currently taking place to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on maritime cultural heritage and to provide recommendations for future actions.  Examples of topics discussed included the standardization of data; the need for more efficient research sharing and a central and accessible repository of articles, publication, research findings, etc. related to climate change and archaeology; incorporating the issue of climate change and its impacts on archaeology into field school programs; and impacts of climate change on both tangible and intangible heritage. 


            In summary, through this conference and events like this conference, archaeologists, biologists, scientists, and individuals from other fields of study can come together and better understand the ways in which climate change is impacting maritime cultural resources.  Stephen Dean quotes, “Archaeology is like a jigsaw puzzle, except that you can’t cheat and look at the box, and not all the pieces are there”.  An interdisciplinary approach is vital to help solve the jigsaw puzzle of climate change and save important cultural resources.  Recordings of this conference will be made available on the new St. Mary’s College of Maryland Marine Science website (, the North American Heritage At Risk website (, and the Ocean Decade Heritage Network website ( by the end of the month. Questions?  Please reach out to McKenna Litynski at this email: 

Session 1 Recording:
Access Passcode: $1Climate

Session 2 Recording:
Access Passcode: 2$Climate

Conference Program with List of Speakers and paper abstracts

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