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Fire, Floodplains and Fish: the Historic Ecology of the lower Cosumnes River Watershed

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Nov 21, 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Rocklin Campus S 111 (Sewell Hall)
5000 Rocklin Rd., Rocklin, CA 95677
General $5 / Students and Seniors $2 / Museum members free
Jennifer Skillen,, (916) 660-7926
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Michelle Stevens and Emilie Zelazo

Event Details

What is the connection between biodiversity in the lower Cosumnes River and the historical activities of the native Miwok people? Come join Professor Michelle Stevens of CSU Sacramento and Emilie Zelazo as they describe their research into the historic ecology of the lower Cosumnes River watershed. Using a combination of archaeological data, historical literature, and recent interviews with local Miwok people, Stevens and Zelazo found that the traditional practices of burning and harvesting helped create optimal conditions for native fishes. Understanding the connections between fire, floodplains, and fish may help guide conservation activities in the future.

Speaker Biographies

Michelle Stevens is a wetlands ecologist and ethnoecologist working with local California and Mexican Indian tribes and basket-weavers, and the ethnoecology of the Mesopotamian Marsh dwellers in southern Iraq. Dr. Stevens’s doctoral research was on the ethnoecology and autecology of white root (Carex barbarae.) She has worked with academic, state, tribal and federal agencies to include historic ecology in restoration planning and conservation efforts. Her current research is on the historic ecology of the North Delta, including the Cosumnes and McColumne Rivers. She serves on the L2 Committee for the California Rapid Assessment Methodology for Wetlands. California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup's mission is to improve the monitoring and assessment of wetland and riparian resources by developing a comprehensive wetland monitoring plan for California and increasing coordination and cooperation among local, state, and federal agencies, tribes, and non-governmental organizations. The workgroup will review technical and policy aspects of wetland monitoring tool development, implementation and use of data to improve wetland management in California. Since 2002, Michelle worked on the ecological and cultural restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq. She has a non-profit organization Hima Mesopotamia (, working on the vital connection between the Mesopotamian Marsh wetlands and indigenous Marsh Arab women. Michelle is currently an associate professor in the Environmental Studies Department at CSU Sacramento. Wetlands and water have sustained human communities, cultural integrity, ecosystem biodiversity and spiritual renewal here in California for thousands of years. In this talk, Dr. Stevens will make these connections with a case example of First Nation Miwok, Maidu and other California Indian communities and the fish and floodplains of the Cosumnes River watershed.

Emilie Zelazo has a master’s in Anthropology from California State University Sacramento and is a professional archaeologist with the California Department of Transportation. She has over ten years of archaeological experience working in California, Arizona, and the Great Basin. Her thesis research integrated changes in environment, technology, and indigenous dietary remains in the lower Sacramento River Valley over a 4,000 year period. The results of her research demonstrated that native fish species provided more than 50% of the local indigenous diet regardless of environmental or technological opportunities/ constraints. The lower Cosumnes River drainage is an area of particular interest for Ms. Zelazo; its archaeological record demonstrates at least 6,000 years of continuous occupation and includes one of the only incipient pottery traditions in California.

The Sierra College Rocklin Campus is located at 5000 Rocklin Road in Rocklin. Parking on campus is FREE on the weekends from Friday at 4pm through Sunday. For more information, call the Sierra College Natural History Museum at (916) 660-7926.

Sponsored by: Natural History Museum

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