Ethical Dimensions of Ethnobiology

James Welch
Email address: 
Session Date and Time: 
Wednesday, 12 May, 2021 - 12:45 to 14:00
Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, Fiorella - Environmental Science and Policy Department, George Mason University
, Mark - School of Engineering, Arts, Science & Technology, University of Suffolk
, Brian - School of Integrative Studies, George Mason University
, Michael - School of Integrative Studies, George Mason University

Hunting is one of the most important drivers of large mammal population decline in the Amazon. Despite its significance, wild meat consumption in Amazonian cities is poorly understood. In Iquitos, the largest urban center of the Peruvian Amazon, there is access to a range of animal proteins, yet people still consume wild meat. To understand the importance of wild meat to food security, and the sustainability of the trade current and accurate estimates of wild meat consumption are necessary. This research aims to tackle the complex question of how much wild meat people in Iquitos consume by systematically sampling the city and interviewing heads of households. It shows that consumption has increased and analyzes the change in species targeted by hunters for sale in urban markets in comparison to previous studies.

Presentation format: 
Oral (pre-recorded)
, Marja - The Evergreen State College

This presentation sheds light on ways in which ‘green’ approaches to mitigating climate change are perpetuating destructive colonial practices among the Sámi-- original people of what-is-now Norway, Sweden, Finland and NW Russia. These practices--including wind projects, dams, railroads, and mining--follow centuries of erasure, oppression, biological racism, and now climate change itself, which is dramatically disrupting basic traditions such as reindeer herding, fishing, and cross-border relations. How can we ensure that solutions to climate change do not undermine Sámis’ UN-recognized rights to land, language, and culture--all of which are interconnected? This presentation, which centers Sámi perspectives, draws upon conversations with seven Sámi people in Sápmi who represent activists, scholars, educators, reindeer herders, fishers, and artists.

Presentation format: 
Oral (pre-recorded)
, Kate - Washington University in St. Louis

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) is a slow-growing plant native to eastern North America that is harvested for its medicinal root. In the Appalachian mountains, searching for and harvesting wild ginseng is a popular activity as high-quality wild roots can be sold for upwards of $600 a pound. Because ginseng grows slowly and is so highly sought-after, its harvest is highly regulated. These regulations are sometimes in conflict with traditional or folk conservation methods, known locally as “good stewardship.” In this presentation, I will examine local understandings of “stewardship” and their conflicts with official regulations for wild ginseng population management. I will also address the implications of such regulations for traditional livelihood strategies among poor Appalachians. This presentation is based on data collected during 18 months of in-depth ethnographic research in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Kentucky in 2019 and 2020.

Presentation format: 
Oral (pre-recorded)
, Ryan - The University of Virginia's College at Wise
, Kendall - The University of Virginia's College at Wise

Wild/tended native food and medicinal plants/fungi play valuable but often overlooked roles in agricultural systems in many world cultures and warrant serious investigation for their potential to address environmental, cultural, economic, agricultural, and food sovereignty issues. One such example is the south-central Appalachian mountain region in the United States, which represents rich biological and cultural heritage. Here, we summarize our past, present, and future research and conservation efforts working with community members from various backgrounds. These projects include measuring the size and distribution of native medicinal plant harvests and sales; investigating what “sustainable harvests” may be; implementing economic incentives for responsible harvesting; gathering supporting data for tree sap collection potentials; documenting traditional plant/fungi lexicon, uses, and perceptions; efforts to safeguard and strengthen tribal sovereignty; pursuing ethical land access to landless stakeholders; community-mediated conservation of valuable species; and other interdisciplinary efforts to preserve and promote biocultural diversity in the region.

Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, James R. - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz

Most research ethics and other research authorizations must be obtained before research begins, even though it may be difficult to anticipate community understandings of ethnobiological knowledge ownership and possession that should be reflected in informed consent protocols, study methods, and publishing. In this paper, I draw broadly on my experience conducting ethnobiological, anthropological, and public health research in A’uwẽ (Xavante) villages in Central Brazil since 2004 to discuss the social contours of ethnobiological knowledge in their society. My goal is to provide an ethnographic account of numerous configurations of knowledge possession, sharing, and secrecy that shape who has (or should have) access to what kinds of information and therefore bear upon culturally appropriate informed consent. I address in detail generalized, gendered, secular age set moiety, and heritable proprietary knowledges. Most specialized A’uwẽ ethnobiological knowledge is considered secret and therefore not appropriate for scientific research and publication.