Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Environmental Program

First Advisor

Karen Nordstrom

Second Advisor

Rachelle Gould

Keywords

wildcrafting, TEK, knowledge systems, conservation, social-ecological systems

Abstract

Social-ecological systems are based in the belief that the well-being of human systems relies on the well-being of ecological systems (Martin-Lopez, 2015). In a time of diminishing cultural and ecological diversity, many researchers are using the framework of social-ecological systems to find solutions to large-scale problems (Armitage, 2009). A subset of social-ecological systems is known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) (Pretty, 2011). This knowledge often encompasses information as to how to collect wild edible plants and fungi (also known as wildcrafting) (Naah, 2017). The act of wildcrafting has been present in human behavior for centuries. However, today some people are experiencing shifts away from collecting wild edible plants and fungi (Pieroni, 2005), while other populations of people are contributing to a resurgence of wildcrafting across the globe (Schackleton, 2017). The ways in which people are learning about how to collect wild edible plants and fungi have historically been rooted in Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), a system of learning which is based off experience and long-term relationships with ecosystems (Berkes, 2000). Foundational aspects of TEK are often seen as starkly different than those of Western Science (WS). WS is most commonly described as a more reductionist approach (Martin, 2010). Many environmental initiatives argue that the integration of both forms of knowledge is necessary for ameliorating large-scale cultural and ecological degradation (Berkes, 2000). My research looked to understand the various ways in which wildcrafting in Chittenden County, VT relies on TEK, WS or both learning systems to inform the basis of wildcrafting practices. Subsequently this research looked understand how wildcrafting fits within a larger conversation of social-ecological systems and the amelioration of human and environment relationships. I interviewed 10 participants using a semi-structured interviewing technique. Then, I carried out a detailed analysis of participant responses using NVivo, a qualitative coding software. The results of this study demonstrated that the majority of participants engaged in both TEK and WS knowledge to inform their wildcrafting practices and motivations. An analysis of the data shows that wildcrafting is complex. Wildcrafting more specifically addresses conservation as wildcrafters practice reciprocity with the natural world and establish a desire to conserve the natural world though interaction. This desire then results practice of sustainable harvesting and active conservation.

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