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Meredith Root-Bernstein

Meredith Root-Bernstein

session, year:
2016 1st


Receiving laboratory:
SADAPT Science for Action and Sustainable Development, Versailles-Grignon

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Mobility project

Improving conservation in agricultural landscapes: Can we close the Value-Action 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

Biography & research interests

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.

Selected publications

Root-Bernstein, M, Gooden, J., Boyes, A. 2018.  Rewilding in practice and in policy. Geoforum 97, 292-304.

Forssman, N., & Root-Bernstein, M. 2018.Landscapes of anticipation of the other: Ethno-ethology in a deer hunting landscape.  (For the Special Issue “Feral Dynamics of Post-industrial Landscapes” edited by A. Tsing and N. Bubandt) Journal of Ethnobiology38(1), 71-87.

Comberti, C., Thornton, T., Bennett, A., & Root-Bernstein, M. 2017. Climate change adaptation, development and archaeology in the Amazon. Archaeological Review from Cambridge32(2), 98-122.

Root-Bernstein, M., Galetti, M., Ladle, R.J., 2017. Rewilding South America: ten key questions. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation, 15(4),271-281.

Root-Bernstein, M., Guerrero-Gattica, M., Piña, L, Bonacic, C., Svenning, J.-C., & Jaksic, F.M., 2016. Prospects for a model of rewilding-inspired transhumance for the restoration of a semi-arid silvopastoral system. Regional Environmental Change 130, 54-61.

Root-Bernstein, M., Frascaroli, F., 2016. Where the fish swim above the birds: configurations and challenges for wetland restoration in the Po Delta, Italy. Restoration Ecology. 24: 773-784.

Barca, B., Lindon, A., & Root-Bernstein, M., 2016. Environmentalism in the crosshairs: perspectives on migratory bird hunting and poaching conflicts in Italy. GECCO. 6, 189-207. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 397, 115-127.

Root-Bernstein, M., 2016. Personal reflections on natural history as common ground for interdisciplinary multispecies socio-ecological research. Geo: Geography and Environment 3(1), e00015.

Lindon, A., & Root-Bernstein, M., 2015. Pheonix flagships: Conservation values and guanaco reintroduction in an anthropogenic landscape. Ambio 44, 458-471.


Awards & patents

2019-2021.  ECOS-Sur/Sud Chile-France cooperation grant.  “Ethnobiology and ecology of smallholder cattle production: can cattle help conservation and adaptation?”

2018-2020.  Co-PI with Dr. Colin Hoag, Smith College.  “Livestock Production, Environmental Change, and Climate Adaptation in the Global South: Comparative Interdisciplinary Research in Mountain Rangelands of Chile and Lesotho”  FACE Foundation/ Thomas Jefferson Fund/ Make Our Planet Great Again, 20,000 USD

2017. National Geographic Society/Waitt Grant awardee.

2016. Selected for associate editor mentorship programme, Journal of Applied Ecology.


VAG farmers adoption conservation