Indigenous people and invasive species – proceedings from the World Parks Congress

Last December, Jenny Atchison (with Lesley Head) shared a video of their presentation delivered at the World Parks Congress in Sydney. Since this time, Jenny, Lesley and a number of symposium presenters have collaborated and proudly present a global community booklet – Indigenous people and invasive species: Perceptions, management, challenges and uses.

Published by the IUCN & CEN Ecosystems and Invasive Species Thematic Group, the booklet encapsulates 15 case studies on Indigenous people and invasive plants from around Australia, including Lesley and Jenny’s research on Indigenous Invasive Plant Management in Northern Australia.

IPIS booklet_V4_Page_01

Ens, E., Fisher, J. and Costello, O. (Editors) (2015) Indigenous people and invasive species: Perceptions, management, challenges and uses. IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management Community Report.

Entangled invasive lives. Indigenous invasive plant management in northern Australia

In this video Jennifer Atchison (and Lesley Head) discuss their research on Indigenous invasive plant management in northern Australia. This presentation was delivered at the World Parks Congress held in Sydney on 17th November 2014 in a special themed session on Indigenous people and invasive species organised by Judy Fischer, Emilie Ens and Oliver Costello.

Discrepancies between the purist, warlike policy discourse of invasive plant management and the messy realities of on-ground practice are being noted in an increasing number of studies. Nowhere is this clearer than in the extensive indigenous lands of Australia’s tropical north, where communities have increasing responsibility for invasive plant management among other pressing land management tasks, as part of what Richie Howitt and others call ‘New Geographies of Coexistence’. Drawing on our own ethnographic research and an analysis of the grey literature, we describe an emerging assemblage we call Indigenous Invasive Plant Management (IIPM).

Shards of the past and seeds of the future

Pondering the details of everyday life in the Bronze Age, as I did in a post several weeks ago, took me back to a discussion between Nigel Clark and Michelle Bastian at the RGS-IBG conference in late August. They wondered how we might need to reassemble the shards of the past in different ways in the future. As I pack up to leave Gothenburg and head home, my head is spinning with ideas, comparisons and lists of things to do. So I will just present a few thoughts as disconnected shards that may or may not sit together in a strong stone wall.

Stone wall, Gotland. Photo: L. Head

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Expectations and openings in Mimosa Country

Fieldwork is never what you might expect or plan for. On my first day with Lesley Head in Daly River Northern Territory to discuss management of Mimosa pigra as part of our research project on ‘The Social Life of Invasive Plants’ our main informant became seriously ill. In north Australian Aboriginal communities death comes often and in small and remote communities its effects are far reaching. Continue reading

Mapping amenity in bushfire-prone landscapes

Blog post by Chris Brennan-Horley, Olivia Dun, Christine Eriksen and Nick Gill

“Treating a forest merely as a collection of trees ignores its contextual relevance to people” (Stankey and Shindler, 2006)

We have spent the past month looking at vegetation in the context of ‘amenity landscapes’. This blog post finds us currently in Bilpin – in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, NSW – conducting interviews with residents to try and understand the interplay between amenity values and bushfire preparedness. This relates both to vegetation in and around residents’ properties and in the surrounding landscape. This fieldwork is part of the ‘Co-existing with Fire: Managing Risk and Amenity’ project funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. A key aspect of this project is to develop mobile and spatial interview methods. Continue reading

Living with, living without weeds: bridging theory and practice

Last week, AUSCCER hosted a workshop for academics and practitioners on this theme at the Novotel Wollongong. We assembled about thirty people connected with our own (Lesley Head, Jenny Atchison and Nick Gill) projects, and with projects where we knew there were partnerships between social scientists and invasive plant managers. The group encompassed a variety of disciplinary traditions (ecology, geography, history, anthropology) and working contexts (State and Local government, NGOs, Aboriginal Land Councils, Universities). They came from all over Australia.

We asked, in an age of social and ecological change, how do we live with weeds? What does this entail ecologically and socially? What are the everyday experiences of managing weeds? How might we reconcile management practice and our lived experience with an ecological vision and policy framework that some places be free from weeds? Continue reading

Invasive species and invading discourses

I took the comfortable three and a bit hour train trip to Stockholm for a couple of days this week to attend the Controlling aliens? Invasion biologies and theorising the native workshop, hosted by Libby Robin and Sverker Sörlin at the Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). Libby and her co-workers have had several collaborative seminars with AUSCCER researchers on invasive species, so it was great to continue the connection on the other side of the world. It is no accident that the discipline of invasion ecology grew out of the colonial experience; it is strongest in former colonies such as Australia, USA, South Africa. The humanities/social science research dimensions are also strong in these areas, providing a critical take on questions of ferals, aliens, natives and invasives. Continue reading

The productive agency of drought?

This post is the first in our new series on drought, flood and water. Over the coming weeks we will make connections between AUSCCER researchers working on watery themes, and showcase our new books. This week, Lesley Head reflects on drought and wheat, as discussed in Ingrained: a Human Bio-geography of Wheat.

Drought is recent enough in the memory of most Australians for us to feel sympathy with those currently experiencing it in North America. The apocalyptically named ‘Millennium Drought’ affected southeastern Australia in particular for the first decade of this century. In the hemispheric oscillations of wheat supply, one farmer’s misfortune is another’s bumper year; wheat prices for Australian farmers are on the rise as harvest projections plummet in North America.

Drought is often depicted as a catastrophe, in which Australians are locked in battle with a fickle and hostile nature. But there are other ways to think about it. And, as climate change projections consistently indicate that southern Australia – where most of the population and agriculture are – will get drier over coming decades, we need to learn to live with drought in better ways. Continue reading

PhD Scholarship: cultural geographies of human-plant relations

Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship in the broad area of cultural geographies of human-plant relations. Specific areas of interest are open and could include for example invasive plants, food, urban ecology, biodiversity or conceptual questions.
A stipend of $23,728pa for three years is available. The project is supported by a generous fieldwork budget as part of Professor Head’s ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship.
Applicants should have a Bachelor Honours degree, with a mark of Second Class/Division I or higher, or equivalent, in human geography or a relevant discipline (e.g. anthropology, biogeography, environmental social science). (Current students expecting such a result at the end of 2012 are welcome to apply.)
Current staff and students in AUSCCER come from backgrounds in human and physical geography, environmental history, political ecology, archaeology and cultural studies. Located in a world-class School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, we have good working relationships with colleagues in the natural and environmental sciences. Facilities include a state of the art human geography laboratory with specialist field equipment and spatial analysis (GIS) systems.
AUSCCER provides a vibrant and supportive environment for postgraduate research students – have a look around this blog for recent activities.

Enquiries can be directed to Lesley Head ( lhead@uow.edu.au)
Applications should be sent to Denise Alsop (dalsop@uow.edu.au) by August 31, 2012. Please format as a single document (pdf or word doc) that includes cover letter, Curriculum Vitae, copy of academic transcript, a brief research proposal (3 pages maximum) and contact details for 2 referees.

(Apart from this specific opportunity, don’t forget that you can apply to undertake postgraduate research at AUSCCER via the main scholarship rounds, the next one of which closes October 17, 2012 for commencement in March 2013. Details about the process here )