In 2014, we surveyed farmers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia , asking which animal species they considered a nuisance. It was a novel survey design, as it did not prompt with species names but rather elicited them from respondents. We then asked farmers to tell us about their monetary loss from each listed species, the acceptability of that loss, how they cope with it, any cultural benefits it provides, and – finally – whether they’d rather have the species or not. Statistical analysis revealed that tolerance was unrelated to perceived monetary losses. Rather, tolerance seemed linked to the type of nuisance they represented to the farmer: threat or damage. Coyote and deer were useful archetypes of each kind, and of the different mental algebra that farmers undertake: deer were very expensive but also enjoyed, and thus the loss was seen as a reasonable trade-off and the species tolerated. By contrast, coyote were not expensive, but were also not enjoyed and thus not tolerated. More work is needed to understand the nature of non-monetary costs, such as trauma, as part of the inversion. The paper is available this week open access at Diversity, part of a special issue on Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes, led by lab alumni Kate Goodale.
I attended an excellent book launch on Sunday for two new volumes related to wetlands and their cultural perceptions and use. The event was appropriately held at the Landscape of Grand Pré visitor’s centre, which commemorates the Acadian culture that arose on ‘reclaimed’ Bay of Fundy marshland in the 1600s. The site is Canada’s only cultural agricultural landscape listed by UNESCO for World Heritage. The event was hosted by Rob Summerby-Murray, lately the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences here at Dalhousie, and now President at Saint Mary’s University, whose own scholarship on the Tantramar marshes nicely tied the two topics together. The discussion that followed was rich, focussing largely on the Grand Pré landscape itself, as a case study of place, culture, ecosystem and landscape management challenges, particularly in the face of climate change, as my own recent research on dykelands (still in review) has found.
Thanks and farewell to Joy Wang, who has been working in my lab for 12 weeks, funded by Mitacs Globalink. She is heading back to Sichuan University to finish up her undergraduate degree, including an honours project related to grazing and desertification in China. She was tasked with revisiting our Australian grazing landscape tree data after almost ten years to see if grazing practices resulted in different outcomes for trees. The best data was found on Google Earth Pro, now free, and with remarkably good imagery for rural Australia. Not only good resolution imagery was available, but the historical data option showed us multiple years of it. She digitized tree stems and areas, and revealed that tree decline is largely continuing. Moreover, tree outcomes were not correlated with rotation regime: the few sites where there appeared to be slight increases in tree cover were those using ‘slow rotation’ in 2007/2008. Joy developed an excellent method for land cover monitoring, combining ArcGIS and Google Earth Pro, which has inspired a few new research ideas for me. Good luck, Joy. Having been a Mitacs Globalink intern, she can access $10K for her first year of Masters study at a participating Canadian university, so perhaps we will see her back here next year.
A summary of the Pan-American Scientific Delegation to the Falklands appeared recently in Science and Diplomacy, penned by Ray Arnaudo and Dr Lindsay Chura, American diplomat and British Embassy science advisor, respectively. The piece is a useful reminder of the underlying ethos of the Delegation: the naturally collaborative nature of science builds bridges. This is important amidst continuing tensions with Argentina, which still claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). The Falklands have mostly looked to the UK for research collaborations (viz: the Shackleton award), but need to strengthen their networks in the region, as a nation to its neighbours, and where ecosystems are shared.
You notice lots of new things re-reading children’s books as an adult. A word about place attachment from Dorothy in tonight’s bedtime story:
The scarecrow could not understand why she wished to leave this beautiful country and go back to the gray place called Kansas.
“That is because you have no brains,” answered the girl. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, people would rather live there than anywhere else. There is no place like home.”