I am interested in understanding how to balance land-based livelihoods with conservation of natural resources. These questions become especially complex in a context of warming climates and more variable precipitation patterns. Two current projects are in the Gunnison watershed (described below).
Assessing the Local knowledge of Gunnison Sage-Grouse
Our understanding of rare and spatially restricted species is often limited by a lack of scientific studies and monitoring data. This is especially true for recently identified species such as the Gunnison sage grouse, which has been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Given the precarious nature of this bird, it is critical to assess all existing information in order to better inform decision-making. This study uses interviews with long-term observers, including professional biologists and lay people, to document observations of sage grouse behavior, habitat and management that may help to better understand and conserve this species. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and coded to track themes of interest across the interviews. Comparisons between local knowledge and peer-reviewed scientific literature suggest that consideration of local observations can expand our overall understanding of rare species and suggest innovative strategies for management. Contradictions between local knowledge and scientific research highlight differences in the way these different groups bound the process of knowledge production. This study highlights the importance of engaging local knowledge for conservation in order to better understand both the species and the context in which conservation occurs. MORE INFORMATION
Understanding Unintended implications of ESA Listings
The Gunnison Sage-grouse is an iconic species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In Colorado’s Gunnison Basin, ranchers own the majority of water rights and productive river bottoms, and approximately 30% of the most important Gunnison Sage-grouse habitat. This project uses interviews to document how ranchers plan to respond if the grouse is listed. Results suggest that listing may result in the sale of water rights that could negatively impact grouse habitat, ecology, aesthetics and livelihoods in the region. Ethnographic studies are critical for understanding the tradeoffs between livelihoods and conservation in an increasingly interconnected world. MORE INFORMATION