Theresa Satterfield


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Postdoctoral Fellows

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


My supervisor has helped me through every stage of the PhD process. She helped me get a laptop when mine was destroyed by a pot of soup (oops). She secured travel funding, and a four year scholarship with a very generous RA ship throughout my time at UBC. She has been a wonderful source of encouragement and a kind critic of my project and writing. She is also a wonderful advisor on what comes after life as a PHD student. I will be forever grateful!

Jason Brown (2017)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Exploring complexity in changing practices of care : a mixed methods inquiry into rights, relations, and knowledge in protected area conservation (2023)

Commonly described as the cornerstone of conservation, protected areas contribute immeasurably to supporting flourishing ecosystems and human wellbeing, and are crucial tools to address the accelerating biodiversity crisis. Yet conventional exclusionary approaches have frequently proven ineffective and inequitable. Accordingly, there is a pressing need for conservation actors to make decisions considering diverse knowledge and values, under conditions of high uncertainty. This dissertation is concerned with the nature of these decisions as they are unfolding in practice, and their entanglements with structures of power, patterns of change, and diverse ways of knowing the human and other-than-human landscape. At multiple scales of decision-making –– conservation planners, community forest managers, and household resource users –– I investigate how institutional arrangements, evidentiary norms, and human-environment relationships affect stewardship. The second chapter develops a novel approach using document analysis and survey methods to assess how the Nature Conservancy of Canada applies multiple types of evidence in conservation planning, identifying evidence gaps and barriers to effective engagement with Indigenous knowledges. The subsequent empirical chapters focus on three related aspects of environmental governance in van panchayat community forests in a high mountain valley in Uttarakhand, India. Chapter 3 introduces the case study, describing how forest councils navigate their legal and customary rights and responsibilities to manage van panchayats for conservation and livelihood benefits. In the same region, the fourth chapter applies a mental models analysis approach to interview data, to illustrate complexities and patterns in how local forest managers are perceiving and responding to intersecting dimensions of change. The fifth and final empirical chapter reports on qualitative and quantitative analyses of a household survey on human-wildlife relations in the same community forests, finding that institutional responsibilities and ethics of care contribute meaningfully to norms of coexistence with wild animals despite persistent conflict. These inquiries apply a range of methodological approaches to advance theories of environmental governance in political ecology, knowledge co-production, and the human dimensions of conservation. In doing so, this work highlights the highly complex, context-specific, and changing ways in which stewarding actors care for protected areas in practice, and identifies potential pathways to support these efforts.

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Reimagining conservation landscapes: Adivasi characterizations of the human-dimensions of southern Indian forests (2022)

One of the most damaging consequences of forest management and wildlife conservation policies around the world has been their pivotal role in the long-term dispossession of Indigenous groups from their ancestral lands. Indigenous presence in, knowledge, and understanding of the natural world is perceived as a problem requiring the correction and intervention of the state. These wrongful assumptions are dominant in the treatment of Adivasi (India's Indigenous people) across post-colonial India. This dissertation empirically investigates the relationship of Kattunayakans, a hunter-forager Adivasi community of Southern India and protected area forest landscapes. It critically contrasts the ideology that defines India's forest policy with Adivasi views of human relationships with wildlife, forested land, forest fire, and forest food.From all the above, chapter 2 characterizes Kattunayakan ways of engagement with wildlife as a form of 'deep coexistence' that describes wild animals as: rational beings in conversation with humans; as gods, teachers, and equals; and as relatives with shared origins practicing dharmam (alms). Chapter 3 contributes empirical evidence to the study of Adivasi-forest relationships by articulating socio-cultural meanings and values that Kattunayakans associate with protected area forests. Chapter 4 engages with Adivasi knowledge of forest fire as an agent, co-manager, actor, preserver, groomer, and enabler of socio-ecological functions. It contests the notion of a forest fire as a dangerous phenomenon that should be quickly extinguished and positions fire as a co-habitant being, on par with animal and human residents. Chapter 5 seeks to expand understanding of Adivasi food transitions and ensuing consequences for the socio-ecology of Indigenous peoples. It describes the food as a facilitator of knowledge, memories, identities, aspirations, reciprocities, relationships, and ways of living. It highlights the need to learn about Adivasi foodways beyond nutrition and have policies that bring an Adivasi inclusive take on food transitions. What emerges is an interpretation of the forest that emphasizes coexistence over domination, highlighting the fluid agency of animal and non-animal entities over rigid policy prescriptions and broader notions of forest security as human security. Together these views remain central to Adivasi well-being despite decades of forced dislocation.

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"Still water, who knows you?": counter-mapping traditional knowledge and ancestral values with Nak'azdli Whut'en (2021)

Many nations globally are seeking reconciliation with Indigenous peoples who continue to suffer at the hands of colonialism and resource extraction. In Canada, development proponents must engage with First Nations in impact assessment processes, seemingly foregrounding Indigenous values in environmental decision making. Consultation entails traditional use and occupancy (TUO) studies: mapped inventories of subsistence activities and traditional ecological knowledge. However, First Nation communities express dissatisfaction with the way their worlds are represented in assessments: for example, criticizing TUO maps for overlooking the deeper significance of harvesting activities in favour of ‘thin’ descriptions of Indigenous interests in the land. This dissertation asks, how does such consultation capture Indigenous interests, values, and world views, and how might it do so more effectively? I draw on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with Nak’azdli Whut’en, a First Nation community in British Columbia, to trial new possibilities for characterizing landscape meanings and significance in Indigenous land-use decision-making contexts. In chapter 2, I illustrate how subsistence activities comprise richer place associations than are represented in TUO studies. I suggest that conventional TUO studies do more to support colonial acquisition of land and resources than to protect Indigenous lifeways and territories. Nevertheless, TUO data remains a useful record of communities’ spatialized knowledge of territory: chapter 3 explores two ways TUO data may be reinterpreted by Indigenous land managers to represent landscape meanings more accurately to outside audiences and to better inform Indigenous-led land use planning. Acknowledging the limitations of approaches based on ‘old maps’, in chapter 4 I employ a mapping methodology sensitive to both material and extra-material expressions of value – including local understandings of social-ecological relations – to elicit a broader range of landscape values. In this characterization the Nak’azdli landscape is alive with both human and more-than-human ancestral kin. Chapter 5 explores this reality within the context of emerging attention to ‘relational values’ within a dominant approach to land-use decision-making, the ecosystem services framework. Ultimately, I conclude that improving social-ecological justice in such decision-making contexts requires assessment approaches that are rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and supported by Indigenous jurisdiction in traditional territories.

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Beyond naturalness? Social dimensions of gene editing in agriculture (2021)

Proponents are heralding gene editing as a crucial solution for climate change and food security. These technologies, however, pose social risks, ethical dilemmas and governance challenges. A central exploration across this thesis is the enduring and yet elusive power of ‘naturalness’. As a master construct, it shapes how we distinguish between good and bad, what we eat, how we govern new technologies and what we ignore as agricultural options. There is a tendency to convert complex policy questions to a (seemingly) simpler one: Is it natural or not? This thesis examines constructions of naturalness emergent in the governance of gene-editing technologies, exploring the concept’s contradictions, assumptions, and implications. I begin this exploration in Chapter 2, which investigates concepts of naturalness in a range of fields, highlighting several ‘logics’ as useful in studying lay perceptions of gene editing. Chapter 3 reviews different regulatory triggers for crop gene editing across jurisdictions, many of which are linked to assumptions about naturalness. I find that ‘natural or not’ dichotomies characterize most regulatory approaches, and propose options that better align with responsible research and innovation. Using interviews (n=19), participant observation and narrative synthesis, Chapter 4 explores the United States (US) and Canadian organic sectors’ responses to gene editing, finding that the similarity between gene editing and existing breeding methods is forcing a re-articulation of rationales for distinguishing between acceptable breeding methods and not. Chapter 5 traces debates over governance of genomic data at two international fora using analysis of 139 documents from official proceedings. It finds that different understandings of both the naturalness and also origin of the value of such data define positions, which roughly group into those of Global North and South. Chapter 6 offers an exploratory Q method study (n=20) of archetypes of thinking about gene editing amongst young urban professionals, finding system-critical views offer an under-explored perspective. Lastly, via a survey (n=1478) of US and Canadian populations, Chapter 7 finds that system-critical attitudes predict discomfort with gene editing and likelihood of expressing outright opposition, and may offer a perspective missing in proponents’ understandings.

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Counter-institutionalization and the economic futures of First Nations in British Columbia (2021)

The legacy of settler-colonialism is manifest most potently as a dominant narrative that rationalizes First Nations compliance with Western-liberal institutions of common law, property and market-based economic growth. These have become de facto requirements for socio-economic improvements and well-being within First Nations communities. This dissertation challenges this assumption and narrative through an examination of the efforts of several First Nations in British Columbia as they pursue self-determination as central to their institutional and economic futures. I begin from the premise that the socio-economic and cultural-ecological condition of First Nations communities today is contingent upon the rules and governance structures imposed on First Nations as they interact with the settler-colonial state. Less recognized, however, are the multiple efforts of First Nations to redraw these structures and the logics that drive them through counter-institutionalizing processes. The dissertation comprises several studies of these processes, each of which are based on qualitative research conducted across four years working as a researcher and community development practitioner with First Nations in British Columbia, Canada. Chapter 2 highlights how First Nations are strategically positioning themselves – albeit in constrained ways – by leveraging the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate in order to strengthen territorial self-governance and jurisdiction. Chapter 3 examines the conflicting institutional logics at play within First Nations forestry-based social enterprises. Chapter 4 demonstrates how a growing number of First Nations communities are seeking to resolve exigent local housing challenges through the creative reformulation of relations of production, allocation and redistribution. Chapter 5 focuses on the institution of property within the context of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation as they seek to re-establish an institutional framework upon which they can take control of their title lands and new jurisdictions, while maintaining their values and visions for the future. Combined these chapters aim to make real the diverse economic efforts of First Nations and open up new possibilities to establish counter-institutional frameworks which prevail alongside or independent of capitalist and colonial pressures.

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Indigeneity in urban communities: relationality, dualism, and the lived experiences of Indigenous persons who live in Vancouver and Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada (2021)

In Canada, approximately half of Indigenous peoples live in urban communities. However, in academic and popular discourse, ‘authentic’ Indigenous peoples are often located in rural ‘natural’ environments away from ‘man-made’ urban communities. I think this sets up a contradiction – where Indigenous peoples are factually present in urban communities but are absent in the contemporary academic and popular imaginary – and so marginalizes the realities of Indigenous persons who live in urban communities. The overall purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate the diverse ways contemporary Indigenous peoples who live in urban communities conceptualize and operationalize their values and enact their lives as this intersects with the meaning of land, reconciliation, relations, and work. Theoretically, I discuss different non-Indigenous and Indigenous discourses on what constitutes the land and their implications for how Indigenous peoples who live in urban communities recognize themselves, are recognized by others, and how they recognize others. I also consider the implication of different liberal (individualistic and relational) and Indigenous relational discourses on the project of transforming liberal institutions into relational institutions. The four substantive chapters include Chapter 2, which investigates how non-Indigenous and Indigenous discourses on reality (or what academics refer to as their ontological worldviews) structure how Indigenous persons see themselves and their relationship to others (human and nonhuman). Chapter 3 engages with the everyday acts of reconciliation of Indigenous persons who live in Vancouver and Nanaimo – whereby they seek to improve the relationships with themselves and others (Indigenous, non-Indigenous, and nonhumans) across several urban communities. Chapter 4 engages with liberal and Indigenous relational discourses on reality, particularly, how they are expressed in contexts assumed to be meritocratic. Chapter 5 engages with five Indigenous persons who live in urban communities’ conceptualizations and enactments of work and their economic lives and how they structure and are structured by their desire to build community and become the persons they want to be. I conclude this thesis by arguing for the importance of recognizing Indigenous diversity and the relational reality of existence.

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Owls, otters, octopuses, and us: examining human-wildlife relationships, attitudes, and perceptions (2021)

Human and non-human animals have had a rich and complicated relationship throughout history, with each having a profound influence on the survival and development of the other. Increasing population and environmental pressures facing both groups have altered these relationships considerably, and have inspired scholars across fields to look more closely at the nature and defining factors of human-animal relations. This dissertation seeks to examine more fully the relationship between humans and animals, specifically wildlife, in order to characterize more deeply the relationships and experiences of humans and animals, the ways in which animals are being perceived by human communities, and the changing state of these perceptions in the current period.The thesis itself comprises four different studies examining elements of this human-wildlife interface. The first study looks at existing literatures on human-wildlife relationships and I identify emerging trends, including determinations of “wild,” perceptions of wildlife, and dimensions of relationality, in addition to exploring the advantages and disadvantages of multi-disciplinary work. The second study explores a case study of animals residing at an aquarium to consider temporally enduring human-wildlife relationships. I show the need for a spectrum of analysis to evaluate animals as opposed to simple terms of wild or tame. This spectrum more closely approximates the wide variety of living animals and also addresses the labor of wilding and de-wildling animals that is necessary in an aquarium setting. The third study examines perceptions people hold towards a wide range of wildlife species. I show how people ascribe many different cognitive and emotive traits and capabilities onto species, which is itself dependent upon taxa. Counter to expectation, cognitive traits are ascribed more than emotive traits. The fourth study experiments with an educational card game featuring animals and their host ecosystems. I show that by using this mode of engagement, perceptions of wildlife can be changed and subsequent behaviors linked to those perceptions may also change. Combined, these chapters seek to understand and categorize the various ways in which humans and wildlife relate to one another with the hope of ultimately identifying strategies to facilitate the survival and success of both.

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Practices of sovereignty: negotiated agreements, jurisdiction, and well-being for Heiltsuk Nation (2019)

Indigenous peoples would strongly deny the Crown ever possessed the power to extinguish their political rights at any point in history. On this view, the Canadian governments do not grant sovereignty to Indigenous peoples. Rather, sovereignty is their inherent right, which flows from ways of knowing and social and political systems that existed long before the arrival of European colonists. I have focused this dissertation on demonstrating the multiple ways in which Heiltsuk Nation practice sovereignty over their territory. Heiltsuk Territory spans 35,553 square kilometres of lands and waters and is located on the central coast of what is now known as British Columbia, Canada. My analysis focuses on practices of Indigenous sovereignty being expressed outside – though supported by – the courts, and specifically in the negotiation and implementation of “reconciliation agreements” between Heiltsuk Nation and the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada. Using qualitative data gathered through 2 years of ethnographic fieldwork, my dissertation traces the implications of negotiated agreements between Heiltsuk Nation and the federal and provincial governments, and finds these agreements have enabled new practices of sovereignty, assertions of jurisdiction, new conceptions of Indigenous well-being, and Indigenous-led efforts of reconciliation. Chapter 2 focuses on the implementation of the 2009 Coastal First Nations Reconciliation Protocol (2009 RPA) to explore how, through day-to-day political interactions, this agreement is operating as a mechanism that works to unsettle long-standing assumptions of Crown sovereignty. Chapter 3 documents the “on the ground” tensions arising from overlapping claims of jurisdictional authority in Heiltsuk territory, beginning from the inception of Coastal First Nations – a unique political alliance of several Nations – to the Land and Resource Management process (LRMP) in the early 2000s, through to the government-to-government process developed in response to the increasing legal authority of First Nations at the time. Chapter 4 critically engages colonial conceptions of “well-being” by focusing on the current wellbeing policies being implemented in coastal BC, and specifically in Heiltsuk territory. Chapter 5 illustrates efforts of Heiltsuk Nation to negotiate one of the first “reconciliation framework agreements” between an Indigenous nation and the Government of Canada.

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The splash and the ripples: assessing sustainability transition experiments (2019)

Fostering sustainability transition is a pressing global societal challenge. Rising GHG emissions, severe social and economic inequality, unsustainable production and consumption activities, and global environmental degradation and its human consequences are all indicators of an unsustainable world. Sustainability Transition Experiments (STEs) have been proposed as a method to accelerate sustainability transitions in response to these challenges. We need methods by which to evaluate STEs, to understand what is happening within transition processes, and to provide insight to STE designers and facilitators as to the efficacy of their processes. This need led to the development of my research questions: How can we conceptualize, and evaluate, the contributions to sustainability transitions of STEs? Was the Energy Futures Lab effective in supporting sustainability transitions in Alberta?I develop a three-part evaluation framework of process, societal effects, and sustainability transition impacts leveraging a development pathway framing. I apply this framework to the case of the Energy Futures Lab in Alberta, Canada which has the goal of fostering transition to a sustainable energy system. Through participant interviews, document reviews, then coding all data in Nvivo, I assess the EFL and the evaluation framework itself. I conclude the framework to be an effective method with which to evaluate STEs. The most significant contribution of the framework is in conceptualizing and assessing sustainability transition impacts. By leveraging the framing of development pathways, this framework provides a detailed set of evaluation categories and indicators that can be used to assess development pathway change and the contribution of an STE to such change. The EFL itself strongly demonstrated commitment to process elements such as fairness, inclusivity, and transparency in its process design and implementation and included many elements that support transition. The EFL has demonstrable societal effects across all categories including individual capacity development, enhanced networks, and institutional change in policy and organizations. There are also examples where the EFL might have influenced characteristics of development pathway change. The evidence introduced in this dissertation leads me to conclude that, despite the limited evidence of direct impact, markers of transition are present illustrating the EFL’s contribution to sustainability transition impacts.

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More precious than gold: Indigenous water governance in the context of Modern land claims in Yukon (2018)

Water governance is a priority for Indigenous peoples, whose complex relationships to water are essential to material and cultural well-being. Indigenous water governance refers to Indigenous modes of interacting with and decision-making processes about water including ontologies, epistemologies, and forms of governance distinct to a given people and adapted over time. Indigenous peoples around the world are presently struggling to protect the waters within their territories against unprecedented changes occurring as a consequence of global environmental change and unsustainable resource development. This dissertation empirically investigates how Indigenous water governance is shaped by the Modern land claims in Yukon, Canada focusing on four of fourteen Yukon First Nations (Carcross/Tagish, Kluane, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and White River); the challenges of navigating complex water governance landscapes where historical and ongoing colonialism shape Indigenous water rights and access; Indigenous approaches to water governance as they are informed by specific water ontologies and forms of governance; and the novel approaches to water governance Indigenous peoples are engaging as informed by their relationships to water and strategic engagement with colonial water frameworks. Chapter 2 engages with the ontological politics of water and water governance. It examines how ontological politics inform water conflict between Indigenous and settler governments and the ways Indigenous views of water as a living entity might come to inform more just and sustainable alternatives. Chapter 3 contributes theory and empirics to the study of Indigenous-state water co-governance in Yukon through an examination of the benefits, challenges and future opportunities with the water governance system, shaped by Modern land claims. Chapter 4 engages with the unique opportunity for Yukon First Nations to develop water legislation and explores the implications of engaging “state-like” forms of governance for Indigenous water governance. Chapter 5 seeks to expand understandings of Indigenous peoples’ roles in Community-Based Monitoring from one of ‘knowledge input’ to an emergent water governance strategy engaged to protect the waters within their traditional territories.

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Dwelling in the wilderness: place, landscape and the sacred among catholic monks of the American west (2017)

A monk’s purpose is to seek God, and contemplative monks in the Roman Catholic tradition are specifically called to seek God in place. Drawing from biblical motifs, religious symbols, spiritual teachings and monastic traditions, monastic communities have forged deep and abiding relationships with their rural and wild locales. While many of the studies concerning monasticism’s relationship to land engage historical and theological dimensions, far fewer give adequate voice to the range of lived perspectives of contemporary monks themselves. Exploring research questions focused on the relationship between environmental discourses and contemporary monastic spirituality, during field work conducted between December 2015 and May 2016, I interviewed 50 male monastics at four monastic communities through both seated and walking interviews. Embedded in the interdisciplinary literature of place and landscape studies, my findings are interpreted through the lens of recent debates regarding the role of cognitively or socially constructed discourses in the experience of landscape. Socially constructed or “representational” perspectives emphasize the semiotic character of experience and meaning making with place and landscape. Rooted in identity, gender, class, ideology or religion, we project meaning onto an otherwise meaningless objective landscape. More recent phenomenological approaches attempt to shift away from any vestiges of Cartesian dualism between subject and object by rejecting representational or symbolic understandings of experience for an emphasis on pre-cognitive, embodied, sensory experience as the fundamental driver of our experience of land and place. I argue that contemporary monasticism, rooted in both symbolic religious constructions and powerful spiritual experiences of land, has engaged environmental discourse through ‘bridging,’ a practice which attempts to assimilate environmental discourse into monastic spirituality on its own terms. The monastic sense of place, the question of ‘sacred’ land, and the observation of religious symbols in land demonstrate what I call an embodied semiotics wherein established religious and environmental discourses are relationally attached to and molded by embodied contact and experience with land.

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Understanding adaptation and social-ecological change in Chilean coastal communities (2016)

In recent decades, attempts have been made to integrate social and ecological dimensions of change into understandings of resource sustainability, yet challenges persist. Complex dynamics in social-ecological systems fuel these challenges, rendering it difficult to anticipate and address problems arising from development or environmental change. This dissertation examines the ability of common-pool resource (CPR) theories to address and realize sustainable management. Traditionally, CPR systems have been understood as a set of design principles for managing resources, especially single-resource regimes wherein local drivers of change are known. However, most CPR settings are embedded in complex systems and affected by drivers at global to local scales. This recognition has led many scholars to champion adaptation as the way forward, but significant confusion remains over key concepts, including adaptive capacity. Focusing on Chile’s small-scale fishers and divers, I explore how user adaptations and sociocultural shifts in response to globalization can threaten the resilience of Chile’s celebrated territorial user rights regime. I develop a typology of user motivations, and explain how these intersect with user adaptations and expand our ability to create more robust management. By studying the concrete adaptation behaviours of marine users, I also demonstrate how adaptive capacity is a proactive process and behaviour-specific, contrary to assessment methods that emphasize generalizability. Similarly, by measuring social learning as the propensity of individuals to attend to social information, I show how social learning may not be uniformly positive (and may even be negative) for social-ecological outcomes, counter to expectations in contemporary resource literatures. Finally, it is generally assumed that common understanding of resource dynamics will improve the kinds of collective action that ensures the success of CPRs. Results suggest that other variables may be more important (e.g., migrant population), and the positive role of common understanding requires further testing using clear measures. Overall, the results of this dissertation suggest a need to attend to, and account for, a broader set of potentially significant social and psychological variables. Adopting a more precise and critical eye regarding human factors, as endeavoured in this study, may help the science of social-ecological sustainability progress more capably and effectively.

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Wind of change: offshore wind farms, contested values and ecosystem services (2016)

Increasing reliance on renewable energy promises to reduce carbon emissions. Although national-scale polls demonstrate high levels of public support for developing renewable energy, local opposition has led to cancelations of renewable energy projects globally. This dissertation empirically investigates barriers to the siting of offshore wind farms in reference to their perceived risks and benefits; people’s willingness to pay to mitigate environmental risks; values that influence these choices and attitudes; and public engagement processes used to engage local citizens in decisions about siting and energy options. The first study investigates perceptions of offshore wind farm impacts and why risks to some ecosystem services (benefits from nature to people) may induce greater concern than others. These differences are attributed to the affective ways in which people perceive risk. Affectively-loaded impacts (e.g., harm to charismatic wildlife, visual intrusion) were assigned greater weight than more easily quantifiable impacts (e.g., displacement of fishing, impact to tourism). This study suggests that government authorities and developers can anticipate and more explicitly address affective dimensions of renewable energy proposals. The second study quantifies stated preferences for specific attributes of wind farms: effect on marine life, type of ownership, distance from shore, and cost. The strongest preference was for farms that greatly increased biodiversity via artificial reefs at an additional cost of $34-42/month. This demonstrates statistically significant willingness to pay for ecologically regenerative renewable energy development. The third study pilots methods on ‘relational values,’ which link people to ecosystems and include associated principles, notions of a good life and virtues. Results suggest relational values are distinct from standard measures of ecological worldview (New Ecological Paradigm) and predictive of attitudes towards offshore wind farms. The fourth study assesses attributes of effective public engagement processes to site renewable energy projects near three island communities. Amongst the array of criteria for robust analytic deliberative processes, good public engagement may be condensable to two themes: enabling bidirectional deliberative learning and providing community benefits. Attending to these themes may improve relationships among communities, government authorities and developers when deciding if and where to site renewable energy infrastructure.

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An even less convenient truth: addressing the challenge of sustainable development through an integration of cognition and culture (2014)

‘Sustainable development,’ or how to achieve durably desirable states in our planet’s nested social-ecological systems, has been heralded by many as the core civilizational challenge of the 21st century. Adding to this challenge is the fact that the scientific study of how to model and manage such complex systems is confounded by a number of archaic intellectual legacies from predecessor disciplines. Chief among these is a relatively crude, low-resolution ‘rational actor’ theory of human behaviour, which lies in tension with a range of more recent, empirical insights regarding how humans absorb information, make decisions, and act, in situ. I argue that, while authors widely acknowledge the former theory to be insufficient, terminological inconsistencies and conceptual opacity have prevented the latter insights from being fully integrated into much sustainable development research. This dissertation aims to help bridge that gap on the level of both theory and practice. First, I present an accessible, original synthesis of cumulative recent findings on human cognition. This synthesis suggests a key object of analysis should be the particular ways in which people reduce the deep complexity of their social-ecological context into actionable information. I then apply this theoretical lens to the study of two areas designated by the UN as sites for experimentation with the concept of sustainable development: Mt. Carmel UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Israel, and Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in British Columbia, Canada. Both Mt. Carmel and Clayoquot Sound are reeling from major ecological shifts, and discordant multistakeholder relations. In my data chapters, I show that by (a) applying my synthesized theoretical lens to an analysis of how the various stakeholders perceive their local context, and (b) adapting and combining a range of elicitation and analysis methods that heretofore have been applied in isolation, I am able to generate insights that have direct, actionable significance for the management of these sensitive, politically fraught social-ecological systems. I conclude with a discussion of implications, caveats, prospects of scalability, and suggestions for future research.

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Terrirorial jurisdiction: The cultural and economic significance of eulachon Thaleichthys pacificus in the north-central coast region of British Columbia (2014)

Aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest have extraordinary affinities to fisheries resources. Balanced relationships with their environments facilitated comprehensive understanding of the cycles of renewal and resource abundance to prosper amidst cyclic variability and harsh climates. Traditional Aboriginal law and social institutions were the sentinel guardians that authorized territorial jurisdiction and resource use. The accumulation of Aboriginal Ecological Knowledge (AEK) ensured continuity of sustainable use and effective resource husbandry to increase wealth. Large surplus of products were driving factors for regional trade and exchange further contributing to wealth generation.Examining the use of eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), in the north-central portion of its range illustrates the linkages between resource use, customary law, and territorial authority. Eulachon are used to produce “Grease” (oil rendered from the fish) in this region only from the Unuk River in the north to the Klinaklini River at the southern terminus. Four coastal Aboriginal groups (Tlingit, Tsimshian, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Nuxalk) produce Grease and are located in or near transportation corridors. An elaborate system of territorial authority was validated through the feasting system, also known as potlatches. Those territorial owners that were effective resource managers achieved higher prestige, and maintained authority by demonstration of resource products’ surplus. Contemporary fisheries management regulation has severely restricted Aboriginal access to limited harvests only, despite those same resources having been in Aboriginal use for thousands of years. Several factors have contributed to profoundly altering Aboriginal practices, their historic traditions, and the spaces on which they depended. These include but are not limited to colonization and its assimilation policies, and myriad restrictive legislation over many decades. The geographic scope of the highest degrees of social complexity exactly matches the eulachon Grease producing region. The wealth and prosperity that existed in this region for thousands of years was due to the integral fit of these social institutions with their unique ecological landscape. Removing this fit has caused damage to the wealth and prosperity of Aboriginal people and also risks the collateral loss of the applying Aboriginal Ecological Knowledge in the stewardship of the Pacific Northwest.

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From cradle-to-grave at the nanoscale: Expert risk perceptions, decision-analysis, and life cycle regulation for emerging nanotechnologies (2013)

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) promise great benefits for society, yet our knowledge of potential risks and best practices for regulation are still in their infancy. High uncertainty and novel ENM properties complicate the management of risk, rendering existing regulatory frameworks inadequate. This thesis investigates the challenges that nanotechnologies pose for risk regulation, and aims to inform the development of policies and practices to address these challenges. In chapter 2, US federal environmental, health and safety (EHS) regulations are analyzed using a life cycle framework, to evaluate their adequacy as applied to ENMs. This analysis reveals that life cycle risk management of nanomaterials under existing regulations is plagued with difficulty, and populated by myriad gaps through which ENM may escape federal oversight altogether. Chapters 3 and 4 examine expert opinions on risks, and perceptions of regulatory agency preparedness to manage risks, using a web-based survey (N=404) of US and Canadian nanotechnology experts. Risk and preparedness perceptions were found to differ significantly across groups of experts. Nano-scientists and engineers were more than twice as likely as nano-regulators to believe that benefits from nanotechnology would greatly exceed risk. Yet, those working in regulatory agencies were far more likely to regard government agencies as unprepared than were experts outside government. These differences were explained by expert views of the novelty of benefits and risks, attitudes toward other classes of risk, preferred approaches to regulation, experts’ degree of economic conservatism, and trust in regulatory agencies.Recognizing the myriad challenges for risk regulation, chapter 5 explores the use of decision-analytic models to cope with uncertainty. Drawing on baseline data monitoring efforts of the US EPA and California DTSC, this chapter argues for the use of novel decision-analytic tools and approaches (such as risk ranking, multi-criteria decision analysis, and “control banding”) in lieu of formal risk assessment to meet regulators’ goals in particular decision contexts.Considered together, this thesis concludes that oversight can be improved through pending regulatory reforms, the utilization of expert opinion to inform decision-making, and the development of improved decision-analytic tools that enable the assessment and management of risks under high uncertainty.

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Reconciliation 'At the end of the day': Decolonizing territorial governance in British Columbia after Delgamuukw (2013)

This dissertation examines new relationships and reconciliation processes between First Nations and the province of British Columbia after the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Delgamuukw, a decision that confirmed the continuing existence of Aboriginal title in the absence of treaties. Beginning with existing theories and critiques of reconciliation, I construct a framework for evaluating if reconciliation processes, and particularly those related to territorial governance, are genuine. The framework is then applied to an examination of new relationships, including co-governance, and a new Indigenous system of territorial governance: the Coastal First Nations’ Regional Monitoring System. In order to better understand how relationships are changing and competing claims to land and resources are being reconciled, I interviewed First Nation and provincial policy- and decision-makers, engaged in participant-observation as an employee of various First Nation groups, studied a case of Indigenous territorial governance, and analysed documentary evidence. I found that by strategically using the uncertainty of undefined Aboriginal rights, some First Nations are regaining governing power over their territories and inculcating a new vision for reconciliation in the province. Instead of focusing on treaties in a process designed to create certainty for settler governments, reconciliation is now seen by decision-makers on both sides as an incremental and ongoing process of building relationships, creating sustainable economies, co-governing with a common vision, and building capacity to meet these goals. I also argue that, despite systemic change, the relationship between the province and First Nations remains colonial. Ultimately, genuine reconciliation will require a relationship to which First Nations agree. Other requirements include the province relinquishing territorial control and observing Indigenous sovereignty in practice, the province compensating Indigenous peoples for their losses, and both parties negotiating on equal footing the sharing of decision-making authority and revenues where First Nations agree to co-govern. Overall, the study addresses power as yielded not in a single decolonizing act, but through many small acts in an ongoing process of reconciliation, thereby illuminating decolonization as it is currently and arguably occurring.

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Engineered debates and emergent biosafety: the social controversy and regulatory challenged confronting GE crops in India (2012)

This dissertation investigates the social controversy and regulatory challenges presented by genetically engineered (GE) crops in India. Current research insufficiently addresses risk controversies in the developing world, nor provides adequate consideration of GE biosafety as an important socio-political concept as well as a technical one. The study addresses these gaps by mapping the GE controversy in India, its insertion into health and safety decision-making, and the ways in which divergent stakeholders have established positions in these risk debates. Secondly, it assesses the challenges facing the biosafety regulatory regime in India, particularly as a country undergoing a "risk transition," whereby a growing middle class and marginal farmers are pitted against one another in surprising ways.The data for this study are drawn from three main sources using a case study methodology. Firstly, interviews with: farmers, civil society groups, and regulators. Secondly, an analysis of key policy and legal documents that serve as the foundation of India's regulatory regime. And finally, an analysis of the literature and materials that help make up the "public debate" including NGO publications, website postings, films, and newspaper articles covering aspects of the controversy from key Indian English language sources. Rooted in the social studies of risk, the dissertation also draws from literatures on comparative policy analysis, narrative theory in social science, political ecology, and science and technology studies. India is undergoing a "risk transition", and the country's response to GE agriculture can be expected to differ from what has been more thoroughly mapped in other parts of the world. Moreover, biosafety is the central organizing principle of agricultural biotechnology regulation in India, and its ongoing negotiated quality has spurred both regulatory innovation and larger governance challenges.India has a diverse, largely agrarian population and this study finds that developing new ways to understand how the GE regulatory regime is changed by public debate is crucial, as are meaningful ways to solicit and incorporate public participation in a complex democracy. Strategies to address public perspectives must extend beyond organized civil society groups to include other citizens, especially marginal producers with much at stake in the GE debates.

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The Environmental Rights Revolution: Constitutions, Human Rights and the Environment (2010)

This thesis examines the growing recognition of the right to a healthy environment and its potential influence on public policy and environmental protection. It includes an analysis of 192 national constitutions, a survey of 500+ environmental law experts, an examination of environmental laws and court decisions in 86 nations, and a comparison of the environmental performance of nations with and without constitutional environmental protection using three comprehensive indices and three time-series.Constitutional environmental protection is widespread—incorporated in 140 national constitutions—including 86 constitutions that explicitly recognize the right to a healthy environment. Common law nations lag behind civil law nations in this regard. Environmental rights also are recognized in four binding international agreements covering 115 nations in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Constitutionalizing the right to a healthy environment appears to have significant legal consequences. In 72 of 86 nations studied, national environmental laws were strengthened and incorporated environmental rights post-constitutionalization. In 50+ nations—spanning Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa—courts have enforced the right to a healthy environment. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica have pioneered simple and inexpensive judicial processes for protecting the right to a healthy environment. Increasingly, international courts and commissions are applying environmental rights in human rights cases.In some nations, the constitutional right to a healthy environment appears to be contributing to: enhanced enforcement of environmental laws; a barrier to rollbacks in environmental law; greater government accountability; a level playing field with other rights; reduced environmental injustice; and improved access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice.Preliminary analysis suggests a positive relationship between environmental protection provisions in constitutions and environmental performance. Nations with constitutional environmental provisions have smaller ecological footprints, rank higher on comprehensive indices of environmental indicators, and reduced emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases faster than nations without such provisions. Additional quantitative research is needed to further explore the impact of constitutional provisions on environmental outcomes.In conclusion, constitutionalizing environmental protection, particularly the right to a healthy environment, represents a potentially transformative act, capable of reconfiguring legal systems to place unprecedented priority on ecological sustainability.

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Wildlife viewing and ecotourism: ethical, scientific, and value-based considerations (2010)

Management of wildlife viewing tourism, possibly as a legacy of management of hunting and trapping activities, tends to see its ultimate goal largely in terms of the sustainable human use of wildlife resources. However, where the potential impacts of human activities are non-lethal, the focus on population dynamics may not adequately address relevant societal and ethical concerns. Additional concerns include protecting tourist safety, maintaining a pristine wilderness experience, habituation (either positive, allowing for easier viewing, or negative, reducing animals’ “wildness'”), stressing animals, and showing disrespect or a lack of courtesy.Formal theories of animal and environmental ethics, while frequently conflicting and under-determinate in terms of specific prescriptions, provide a coherent basis and language for the discussion of each of these different concerns.The values extant in society, as reflected in lay writing about wildlife tourism, show that there is societal support for a variety of goals that wildlife tourism management should address. These include population-level and individual-level consequences as well as non-consequentialist goals such as fostering respect for wildlife or avoiding a “trophy photograph” mentality.Scientists attempting to assess the impacts of wildlife tourism use a variety of measures related to both individual and population responses. Especially when using individual-animal measures (behaviour, stress responses), scientists are rarely explicit about why these measures are important, relying instead on an implicit and uncertain link to population-level impacts. These measures, however, may be linked more directly to equally valid (from a management perspective) individual-level concerns.Given the variety of goals that are ethically justified and societally supported, it is inappropriate to conceptualise management as a mere scientific problem. Instead, I use a decision-analysis framework to synthesize relevant contributions from the scientific, ethical, and social-values literatures, identify their respective contributions to the decision-making process, and conclude that while good indicators exist for most of the objectives identified, thresholds at which changes in the indicators call for management action remain to be established.

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Adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change : an integrated examination of ecological and social dimensions of change (2009)

Recognition of the impacts of climate change has prompted re-assessment of existing conservation policy frameworks (here thought of as collections of means and objectives that reflect values, beliefs and expectations of control). The concern is that changing temperature and precipitation regimes will alter an extensive range of biological processes and patterns. These system dynamics are at odds with long-established conservation policies that are predicated on assumptions of stable biodiversity targets (e.g. species or ecosystems), and that seek to protect these targets by means of static protected areas. Efforts to address this challenge have so far originated from the fields of ecology and biogeography and include the core adaptive strategies of expanding protected areas and implementing migration corridors. The purpose of this research was to reach beyond these disciplines to integrate across a set of ecological and social insights to develop a more holistic understanding of challenge of adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change. Two overarching questions guided this research: 1) do the impacts of climate change necessitate a different set of means, objectives and expectations than are indicated by current conservation adaptation proposals (i.e. proposals that include new protected areas and migration corridors as the primary adaptive strategy); and 2) if there is evidence that this is so, what are the barriers to implementing a policy framework with new means, objectives and expectations?Using a combination of case study, expert elicitation, and ethnographic methods, the results of this thesis provide empirical evidence that the impacts of climate change are seen by many experts to implicate the need for changes in conservation policy that include consideration of interventions such facilitating species distributions through disturbance, assisted migration, revised objectives, and triage-like priority setting. Yet simultaneously there is evidence of a public precautionary ambivalence towards these alternative elements of a potentially new policy framework, combined with durable more preservationist (less engineering) conservation values. It is contended that these value-based commitments have in part, shaped the adaptive response so far. Combined, these results highlight that policy adaptation within “science-based” conservation is a tangle of social dynamics, including durable preservationist-type values and related resistance to anticipated difficult trade-offs implicit in a more transformative decision framework.

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Gender, justice and livelihoods in the creation and demise of forests in North Western Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula (2009)

This doctoral dissertation explores how the people of Zeghie, living in a designated sacred area, have confronted and attempted to survive internal and external pressures on their forest-based, coffee-dependent livelihoods. For generations the peninsula has embraced strict rules that have helped sustain the forested and coffee-based agro-ecosystem. Today, the Zeghean economy is at a crossroads and rapid forest harvesting is the norm. This research adopted a number of theoretical approaches including environmental history and political ecology to understand determinants of deforestation and environmental degradation and their impact on the long-term sustainability of the natural resources and people’s livelihoods. While Zeghie’s landscape is unquestionably long-inhabited and also unquestionably regarded as sacred in the eyes of most of its inhabitants, a closer look revealed a landscape that is both historically complex and socially troubled wherein coffee is a newer livelihood than most conservation and aid agencies have assumed it to be, and that other agricultural practices have been used in the past and might be used again. It also suggests that the potential for viable livelihoods may well be over-shadowed by discourses of the sacred and of biodiversity. Research and analysis conducted as part of this work also sought to understand deeply rooted gender and power relations, which are currently fuelling poverty and marginalization. Widespread male emigration and increased numbers of female-headed households have resulted in a fierce struggle for land and have highlighted extreme problems pertaining to the absence of fair and equitable justice for women. The use of critical and feminist legal theory and feminist political ecology has been instrumental to understanding the ways in which local legal and rule-based systems reinforce inequality through imposed community harmony for all at the expense of justice for women. The study concludes that deforestation and environmental change in Zeghie are exacerbated by complex social, political-economic, and historical processes—processes entrenched in the micro politics of property ownership and gendered legal and decision-making institutions. A broader set of policies, institutional and technical interventions will be required for the sake of both local livelihoods and the management of natural resources.

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When seafood feeds the spirit yet poisons the body : developing health indicators for risk assessment in a Native American fishing community (2008)

Current US government risk assessment and management regulations and policies are based on a position that views risk as an objective measure of a predictable physiological morbidity or mortality outcome that is not otherwise connected to social or cultural beliefs and values. Whereas human health risk assessments are meant to determine the probability of adverse impacts from particular hazards, the conventional risk assessment framework fails to consider Native American definitions of health and so risk. This study was conducted with the Coast Salish Swinomish Indian Tribal Community of Washington State, where contamination of their aquatic natural resources has been found. By conducting two series of interviews with traditional high-use seafood consumers, experts and elders from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and by averting use of what I describe herein as ‘conventional’ fish consumption survey, the study allowed interviewees to provide a more complex narrative set of details and information that bestowed a much more accurate picture of the reasoning behind seafood consumption habits within the community. Among the more salient points that emerged from the interviews was that seafood represents a symbolic, deeply meaningful food source that is linked to a multi-dimensional ‘Swinomish’ concept of health. Yet drastic changes in access, harvest and consumption have occurred over time, and continue to this day. A health evaluation tool was also devised using simple descriptive scaled rankings to elucidate non-physiological health risks and impacts in relation to contaminated seafood. Findings demonstrate that community cohesion, food security, ceremonial use and knowledge transmission all play primary roles as concerns the Swinomish notions of health, and that these indicators are regarded as equally important when juxtaposed to physical indicators of health. Thus, to eat less seafood—as prescribed by current policy and decision-making procedures when contamination is present—is actually detrimental to the multi-dimensional concept of health as defined by the Swinomish. The evaluation tool may be used in conjunction with the conventional risk assessment framework to more accurately and comprehensively deduce risks and impacts.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Sea turtles and paper parks in a Nicaraguan small scale fishery (2022)

The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) experienced a global population decline of about 30% over two generations. Threats include direct take of turtle eggs for human consumption and indirect take of adults via incidental catch in fishing gear, known as bycatch. Chacocente beach in Nicaragua is one of ten mass nesting sites for olive ridleys in the world. The shore of Chacocente is under military protection and the surrounding waters are part of an established marine protected area (MPA). In the neighboring community of El Astillero, 60% of households are economically dependent on fishing. Fishers expressed concern for turtle bycatch in gillnets and managers expressed concern for uncontrolled fishing; however, bycatch in this region has not been quantified. This study examines bycatch in reference to the protected area’s design logics to understand whether management strategies have encouraged the desired fisher behavior and outcomes as concerns olive ridleys. Through document analysis, we derived four unintentional assumptions that seem to inform management design. We then compared these unintentional assumptions to 586 net set observations conducted in 2019. Results showed 24 turtles were caught inside the MPA, 24 turtles caught outside the MPA, with 0.04 and 0.03 turtles caught per 100 meters of net, respectively. While bycatch is similar inside and outside the MPA, revealing a lack of compliance with MPA boundaries, bycatch varied greatly between targeted species and month, with relatively high proportions of bycatch occurring in the snook fishery and in September. Such variance is not accounted for in regulations. To build quality protection in practice – not quantity of parks on paper – we aim to improve understanding of fishing interactions at-sea and make recommendations for management design that work for both sea turtle populations and fisher livelihood security.

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Perceived food quality and production quality in consumer evaluation of agrifood products (2019)

Designing agricultural systems that balance food production with environmental sustainability will be pivotal in supporting a growing population while living within planetary boundaries. Yet the literature on the demand side of food production rests largely on consumer choices driven by food safety, health, and dietary concerns. Very little work pertains to people’s thinking about food production or the supply end of food systems, with the exception of some work on preferences for organics or GM-free products. The current study thus seeks to explore the fuller set of latent factors underlying consumer evaluation of food products. It seeks, in particular, to explore people’s logics as to how they evaluate foods – be they driven by the perceived health attributes of food versus the quality of production of that food. A study was thus conducted to understand people’s evaluation of food items. We surveyed 319 participants using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Each participant was asked to to judge 14 agrifood products on 19 attributes. These attributes spanned concepts on production, environmental impact of production, preferences, and economic value. An exploratory factor analysis revealed two discrete factors: one factor pertained primarily to the quality of the food items themselves (e.g., organics, nutrition, flavor), and the second primarily addressed the quality of food production regarding agricultural inputs and degree of environmental impact (e.g., pesticide use, biodiversity impact, climate change consequence). From the one-way between subject ANOVAs and regression analyses, we found distinct relationships between demographic variables and perceived food and production qualities. These findings suggest that quality of production figures prominently in food perception, which was not previously considered as a part of consumer food choices, at least not for the average (versus ‘ethical’ or ‘green’) consumer. The understanding that quality of agrifood production is a factor among consumers is a valuable finding with implications for marketing, policy, and consumer decision making. The consideration of sustainable production by consumers has the potential to inform and guide the creation of food policies aimed at improved environmental sustainability, and interventions on consumer decision making regarding commensurate goals.

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Strengthening conservation through localized definitions of wellbeing: understanding what is meant by 'A Good Life' in Namibia's (2018)

Effective conservation is more important now than ever before with biodiversity loss occurring at unprecedented rates. Conservation practices have evolved from ‘fence and fine’ strategies to participatory approaches. It is now widely accepted that conservation initiatives should deliver both socioeconomic benefits and biodiversity protection.  One of the best known examples of achieving this is Namibia’s communal conservancy programme. This thesis sought to understand how communities in Namibia’s Zambezi Region define wellbeing in general and as a function of the conservancies. This work aimed to move beyond universal measures of socioeconomic wellbeing to a set that includes a broad suite of concerns that are economic and social, environmental, cultural and political. Findings are based on two months of fieldwork in Namibia where data was collected through interviews and focus groups across six conservancies in the Zambezi Region. Through interviews and focus groups ten wellbeing dimensions emerged. These ten dimensions shed light on two important findings: First, the dimensions are inclusive of many well-explored wellbeing components, which challenges the notion that global indices do not adequately capture the dimensions of wellbeing. However, and secondly, it is how these categories are elaborated that make them useful at the local scale. Therefore, it is not the way wellbeing is categorized that is most important, it is how these dimensions are interpreted and incorporated in the process of conservation planning. These insights are significant because conservation initiatives that are better tailored to local needs can foster more meaningful community involvement, which Namibia’s programme has proved to be integral to conservation success.

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Mechanisms of indigenous exclusion in British Columbia's environmental assessment process (2017)

Due to changes in Canadian case law, there is a growing focus on making space for Indigenous rights and interests in BC’s environmental assessment process. However, despite this increased attention, First Nations are continuing to report that their interests are poorly represented in evaluations of project effects. This disconnect is the focus of my research, and in this thesis, I discuss findings from a review of fifteen EA certificate applications approved by the provincial government between 2011 and 2016. I found that evaluations of the extent and significance of potential impacts on Indigenous rights and interests are now central (and required) components of every EA. However, the methods commonly used to carry out these evaluations often rely on settler-colonial assumptions that invalidate or obscure issues of critical concern to First Nations. This negation is so commonplace that my analysis revealed a consistent set of precise mechanisms through which project proponents systematically exclude Indigenous interests in such applications. In my research, I refer to these patterns as “mechanisms of exclusion”, and describe three: (1) failure to recognize long-standing interests (particularly non-consumptive interests associated with territory governance and land and resource management); (2) insufficient consideration of extra-material dimensions of value in characterizations of Aboriginal interests and related evaluations of project effects; and (3) a lack of appropriate thresholds and/or transparency in evaluations of impact significance. My objective in doing so is to underscore the need to look more critically at the assumptions embedded in ostensibly inclusive processes such as EA. In addition, I offer recommendations as to how we can better represent Indigenous interests in evaluations of adverse project effects.

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Social shocks in social-ecological systems : the impacts of sea cucumber booms for coastal communities in Mexico (2017)

In a world of growing interconnectivity, global scale social processes drive local-level change at ever-faster rates, shaping the challenges and opportunities faced by communities. Yet, literature on vulnerability and adaptation within social-ecological systems (SES) scholarship has largely centred on climate change and associated biophysical stressors. Key theoretical shortcomings are twofold. First, in SES scholarship, there has been limited engagement with non-climate anthropogenic drivers of change and characterization of how other social drivers impact communities and the larger social-ecological system in which communities are nested. Second, there has been less consideration of the differing timescales of change, resulting in a scholarship that is under-theorized in terms of how communities experience and respond to shocks (e.g., hurricanes, volatility in international markets, military coups) versus trends (e.g., rising ocean temperatures, urbanization). This thesis seeks to address these shortcomings by exploring the impacts of socially driven shocks in a coastal community, including implications for vulnerability and adaptation. Specifically, through a qualitative case study of a fishing community on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, I investigate how a rapidly developed sea cucumber fishery, triggered by rising demand from international seafood markets, drives dramatic change in the social structure, functioning and feedbacks within the community. I demonstrate how the emergence of sea cucumber fishing has driven novel and rapid change in the community, introducing new stressors such as poaching and violent conflict, while exacerbating pressures from ongoing trends of population increase and overfishing of other commercially valuable species. Results suggest that this spike in pressure on the social system has impacted vulnerability and challenged the capacity of local institutions to respond adaptively. This includes a decreased capacity to manage local resources and increased risks to livelihoods for fishers. By attending to social drivers of rapid change in coastal SES, this research contributes to scholarship on multiple stressors and their contributions to local vulnerability. Finally, by focusing on the impacts of change on the structure, functions and feedbacks of social systems, I provide a framework that aligns with existing SES thinking and language while creating space for a more robust engagement with the social dimensions of these linked systems.

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Inuit Encounters with Colonial Capital: Nanisivik - Canada's First High Arctic Mine (2013)

Mineral development has a long history of occurring in the territory of Indigenous communities. In Canada’s North, mineral exploration and mine development has become the most significant economic development strategy for Nunavut, with unprecedented levels of investment taking place today. However, broader and long-term implications of mineral development, and relevant historical experiences, are not well understood or documented. This thesis investigates a historically significant case: Canada’s first high Arctic mine, the Nanisivik lead-zinc mine, which operated near the Inuit community of Arctic Bay from 1976-2002. Across two papers, this thesis focuses on the mine’s development in the early 1970s, and closure in the 2000s.Through a Marxian analysis utilizing the constructs of primitive accumulation and modes of production, chapter 2 outlines non-renewable resource-based industrial capitalism (exemplified by Nanisivik) as a distinct and severe structure of dispossession. This is contrasted with prior periods of similarly colonial but merchant capitalist resource extraction, namely whaling and the fur trade. I explain how the State and capital combined to impose capitalist relations of production on a predominantly noncapitalist Inuit social formation. Aspects of structural resistance to this imposition are also discussed. Archival materials demonstrate in particular the intention of the Canadian State to institute a mineral-based wage economy in the region, to facilitate capital accumulation, and Inuit assimilation and labour formation.Chapter 3 explores Nanisivik’s closure and post-closure phases after operations ceased in 2002. It argues that, given the demolition of $50 million worth of industrial and residential infrastructure at Nanisivik, carried out against the wishes of the community of Arctic Bay, the mine represents a case of ‘closure failure.’ Research findings demonstrate a clear gap between the rhetoric and actual implementation of recent government and industry approaches to ‘sustainable’ mining, and socially responsibly mine closure. Analyses of relevant policy documents and interviews with residents of Arctic Bay suggest that economic concerns were consistently prioritized over socially responsible closure concerns. Profound and lingering disappointment and loss within the community over the outcome is also evident. Expanded mine closure regulation is called for in response.

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Lions and Tigers and Bears: An Investigation of the State of Conservation in Zoos (2013)

Zoos have historically been institutions focused on the recreational and entertainment value of their animal collections. However, zoos in the contemporary period have begun to embrace a conservation mindset and employ tools such as conservation projects to encourage positive impacts on species in the wild. This transition is traced from the earliest zoos to the present day and the efficacy of zoo conservation efforts is examined. There are questions regarding the zoo projects including species involved, the nature of project selection, and the stated goals. To address these questions, a species-based analysis of conservation projects at conservation-focused zoos is conducted. Initially, pressures involving zoos’ operating conditions and their conservation practices are reviewed to highlight the challenges faced by zoos. Secondly, a quantitative analysis of the species involved in conservation projects is undertaken. Statistics related to the animals contained within the projects are then compared with animal threat levels as outlined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. A preference for species in the following order was found: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and terrestrial invertebrates. Additional information is gathered by personal interviews with the zoos profiled. This allows for a more comprehensive discussion of pressures where business concerns and protecting wildlife must be managed simultaneously. Specific creative approaches to projects and additional strategies to further impact conservation are subsequently explored.

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