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Adapting Ecological Calendars to a Changing Climate

Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan and Tajikistan

Featured image for the project, Adapting Ecological Calendars to a Changing Climate


  • We worked with Dr. Karim Aly-Kassam to crowdsource ideas for updating indegenous calendars, in partnership with MIT’s Climate Colab
  • We planned and facilitated a day-long workshop with the contest winners to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to calendars. The work plan  connects “cues” or action points in traditional calendars to underlying bioclimatic variables, then uses climate models to predict changes in those variables.
  • Working with local knowledge holders, we will use predicted changes in bioclimatic variables to modify, reorder, or even create new cues in the calendars.
  • We’ve supported two proposals, including one which received funding from Cornell University
  • We’ve provided ongoing feedback and guidance on project development and connections to potential funders.

This project work is ongoing. Click here for the most up-to-date information on current activities.


In the Pamir Mountains, which span the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, small-scale farmers and herders are key food producers. Traditionally, they have used calendars based on historical climate cues, such as first budding of a plant or the last day of snow cover, to anticipate weather patterns and coordinate planting and harvesting with seasonal cycles. These ecological calendars vary from valley to valley because they are well-tuned to small-scale elevation and geographic differences. As a result of colonialism and conflict throughout the twentieth century, ecological calendars fell out of use.


This project used both traditional and scientific knowledge to adapt the calendars for the rapidly changing climate in the region, and make them useful tools for local residents. More generally, this approach to ecological calendars provide a way to turn Earth and space science into actions that can enhance food security and overall resilience.


National Geographic Features Pamir Mountains

A yak herd crosses the high-altitude plateau of the Little Pamir Mountains, on the borders of China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Matthieu Paley

A yak herd crosses the high-altitude plateau of the Little Pamir Mountains, on the borders of China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Matthieu Paley

National Geographic took an interest in TEX’s project with the Pamir Mountains, and has recently published an article on Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam’s work with the region’s ecological calendars. Read more here!

EOS Publishes Article on Pamir Mountains Project

Pamir Mountains Project Update: Team Receives Research Funding through the Belmont Forum

All updates for this project

Project Team


Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam is International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian Program.

Collaborating Organization(s)


Thriving Earth Exchange and MIT’s Climate CoLab work together to host online discussions and build collaborations that advance community science.