Kasmira Cockerill

 
Shannon Marie Hagerman
Wellington
Canada
 

Research Topic

Knowledge and Participation in Community-based Conservation in the Northern Rangelands of Kenya

Research Group

Social-Ecological System (SES) Research Group

Research Description

Before entering the MSc program at UBC I had worked for over five years with community conservation projects in Kenya. As a western academic, I had prioritized scientific information and believed if we only had better mechanisms to ensure evidence-based decision making we could improve conservation outcomes. Through working with communities in wildlife rich areas of Kenya I profoundly changed my worldview. These communities held a wealth of information and understanding regarding the ecological processes of their landscapes, and their traditional decision-making processes often reinforced learning and adaptation which a more “structured” governance institution could not provide. This led me to an interest in the interactions and possible integration of knowledge paradigms. I began to explore governance systems which could prioritize the most appropriate knowledge for the context and problems at hand rather than one way of thinking dominating another. Today my research works with Sera Community Conservancy and a conservation NGO, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). We explore knowledge and different ontologies as an avenue to understand the functionality and structure of community based conservation governance. My research documents who is involved in community conservation, how the process of governance operates, and attempts to understand the outcomes of these governance processes – all with the central focus of understanding how different ways of knowing, valuing and understanding conservation interact.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

UBC is a diverse community of inspiring individuals working on important issues across the world. Often a problem I am tackling in my research in Kenya is shared by my colleagues working in Bolivia or with a First Nations community here in Canada. The ability to share our experiences, our work, and our different approaches has enriched my abilities as a researcher and deepened my perspective of the world.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Great food! This city has everything your taste buds could want.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

During my search for a supportive supervisor and a positive research environment, UBC emerged as a university with outstanding professors working on emerging fields where my interests had grown. I came to my graduate degree with the desire to live and work in Kenya and it was important that I found a program, supervisor, and committee which would be supportive in adapting my program to my personal circumstance. UBC has offered all that and more. The ability to self-direct my research while maintaining a strong academic support system at UBC, has made UBC the right choice for my work.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

It was 5 years between finishing my undergraduate degree and starting a graduate program here at UBC. During that time I believe I was searching for my own sense of balance between the applied and academic worlds. I knew I loved science and I could see the need for research in the real world but most of the time academic information was not working to support applied outcomes. By working in the conservation industry for 5 years I began to formulate my own questions and interests that help serve me in address this implementation gap. This inspired my interest in conducting research on conservation governance and decision-making. I eventually settled on this graduate program because I believe the personal growth and research skills will assist me to become a better applied conservationist and I think we need more people who can help bridge the divisions between the academic and applied worlds.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Being in graduate school requires a lot of self-discipline and the ability to internally generate inspiration at times. Grad school is a marathon and you must be able to get up every day and know why you want to do the work you are undertaking. I decided to come to grad school six years after I finished my undergraduate degree and I think the time I spent finding clarity and focus has kept me engaged and inspired to do the hard yards that are inevitably in a graduate program.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I am an avid equestrian rider. I compete with the UBC equestrian team which is a great break from the computer. I also love camping, hiking, and generally being outdoors.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it. We have a great community here at UBC and a thesis is not written by one person, it takes a whole team.

 
 

UBC is a diverse community of inspiring individuals working on important issues across the world. Often a problem I am tackling in my research in Kenya is shared by my colleagues working in Bolivia or with a First Nations community here in Canada. The ability to share our experiences, our work, and our different approaches has enriched my abilities as a researcher and deepened my perspective of the world.