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Meredith Root-Bernstein

Science for Action and Sustainable Development, Versailles-Grignon

Improving conservation in agricultural landscapes: Can we close the ValueAction Gap?

Annual meeting: 2017

Fields-Topics: P7 Economics, Social Sciences

Type of talk: Fellows Speed Presentation

Improving conservation in agricultural landscapes: Can we close the ValueAction Gap?


I have been pursuing interdisciplinary approaches between biology and anthropology since I was an undergraduate, receiving an AB in an Independent Concentration in Bioliguistics from Princeton University. I then did a MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, both at Oxford University. Liking the balance between theory and practice and the interdisciplinary approach of conservation, I obtained a PhD in Ecology, focusing on the ecology and conservation of a small rodent and its habitat in central Chile, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Following this I obtained a postdoctoral fellowship on restoration ecology in central Chile, and as a postdoctoral fellow back at Oxford I expanded this to begin a pilot rewilding project with guanacos (wild llamas) in central Chile. I also began a set of collaborations in Italy related to conservation values and practices among various stakeholder groups in the Po Delta, and among migratory bird hunters. Next, as a post doc with the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene group in Denmark, I have collaborated with anthropologists to develop methods of multispecies anthropology. My interests include community ecology, animal behavior, anthropology of the environment and multispecies ethnography, and policy.


Improving conservation in agricultural landscapes: Can we close the ValueAction Gap?

My project builds on my ongoing research in central Chile and my interest in values and practices in relation to the environment and conservation. The conservation literature has taken very simplified approaches to what environmental values are, and how they relate to practices. The literatures on uptake or adoption of conservation-friendly farming practices in Europe and Africa, for example, have taken differing approaches, with the former often finding values to be an important predictor of adoption, and the latter rarely considering values. Neither literature considers the possibility that farmers may already have traditional or modern (e.g. biodynamic) practices that they already believe are environmentally friendly, but which may conflict with projects of new practice adoption. My project aims to investigate the links between environmental values, existing practices, and adoption of new environmentally-friendly practices, among farmers in central Chile. I do so by using quantitative surveys, based on conservation psychology and sociology approaches, to ask about farmers’ “lay theories” of environmental value and practice adoption; and through ecological surveys of farmers’ land to understand the link between their existing management practices and the successional states on their landholdings, which include silvopastoral and forested areas. Further, I will compare lay theories and ecological outcomes between a municipality with low development but a “participative” governance mechanism for land use planning, and a municipality with higher development but no participative mechanism, to understand the role of social engagements in creating certain types of value-practice coherency.

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