Doctoral Dissertation Research: Knowledge Resources in the Building of Ecological Restoration Communities


Audra Simpson
Professor of Anthropology
Fern Thompsett
PhD Student


This research project investigates land-based communities and a network of ecological theorists to analyze the range of strategies that are utilized in building communities committed to ecological restoration and sustainability. It specifically asks what knowledge sources these communities draw upon, and how those knowledge sources are integrated, in ecological restoration efforts. The project aims to expand understandings of the range of ecological restoration strategies and knowledge resources that communities marshal in adapting to environmental change. Findings and data will be disseminated through scholarly avenues as well as public workshops and through the curation an online archive of research materials. In addition to providing funding for the training of a graduate student in anthropology in the methods of empirical, scientific data collection and analysis, the project would enhance scientific understanding engaging non-academic groups in the process of scientific production and the scientific method.

This doctoral dissertation focuses on two groups that are concerned with building communities that are responsive to the effects of environmental change and engaged in ecological restoration, and which derive their discourse largely from anthropological theory. The context provides a unique window into the study of how anthropological citizen science is translated into ecological restoration efforts. Over the course of twelve months of fieldwork, the researcher will explore the social structure, decision-making processes, the external relationships these communities have with Indigenous communities, and their ecological practices through participant observation, focus group interviews among a core cohort of participants to examine collective decision-making practices, and semi-structured interviews and life histories to understand individual lived experiences. Analytical techniques include discourse and textual analysis of interview and archival data. The project would make generalizable contributions to understand the role and response of non-state sovereign movements to environmental change.