11 March 2022 – Forest Life, Scientific Practice, Climate Politics

Bringing together academics and practitioners of forest science, climate and forest policy, anthropology, and social studies of science, this workshop asks how climate imperatives remake the forest as an object of study and a site of intervention. How do we understand the articulation of different scales, modes, and practices of relating to forest, from rural life to on-the-ground field work to remote sensing and satellites, in the generation of forest data? How do forest knowledges and climate interventions align or misalign in building scenarios and establishing baselines, for instance in the contexts of REDD+ or forest modeling? How are categories of forest and agriculture established, contested, or transformed in these processes? What alignments and equivocations, tensions and openings emerge in conversations and translations across forest worlds?

Javier Mateo Vega currently works for the Alliance of Biodiversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture as Global Director of Partnerships and Communications, and is completing a PhD in biology at McGill University. Prior to this, he was the director of the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative at Yale and the Smithsonian, Country Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Costa Rica, and coordinator of the Environmental Science and Policy Program of the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica. Since the early 2010s, he has been heavily involved in participatory forest biomass monitoring and scenario-based planning in eastern Panama, designing field methods for tracking forest carbon with Emberá and Wounaan collaborators and capturing their visions for the future of their forest estate, and closely following the many layered political tensions around proposed Nature-based Solutions, including REDD+, in this region of Panama.  

Elsa Ordway is currently an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, where she directs the forest ecosystems and global change lab. Her work takes as its focus terrestrial social-ecological systems in the context of climate change and other intensifying environmental pressures, drawing together a combination of remote sensing, field, observations, modeling, and socioeconomic analysis to understand emerging patterns in forests across scales from specific ecosystems to global environmental changes, with a particular focus on tropical forests. Key areas of questions include understanding functional ecology across scales, linking field observations and remote sensing measurements; understanding the role of forest ecosystems in global environmental change, through historical data and modeling; and tracing patterns, pathways, and consequences of tropical deforestation.

Sarah E. Vaughn is a sociocultural anthropologist working at the intersection of environmental anthropology, critical social theory, and science and technology studies, and currently assistant professor of sociocultural anthropology at UC Berkeley. Her work has examined climate adaptation against the backdrop of ongoing processes of settler colonialism and the global climate change initiatives that seek to intervene on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable, through research in Guyana in the aftermath of the 2005 catastrophic flooding that ravaged the country’s Atlantic coastal plain. At stake in her research are questions about the role climate change has in shaping the materiality of expertise, an ethics of (re)distribution, and narrative form.

Julie Velásquez Runk, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Georgia, has worked since the late 1990s with Wounaan scholars and community members in eastern Panama, first as an ecologist, then as an anthropologist. Her recent work focuses particularly on the dynamic, networked, and often unpredictable landscapes of biophysical characteristics, political decisions, and cultural beliefs that together form the situations that come to be understood as problems for environmental conservation. Her work asks how to sustain forests and nurture human wellbeing in mosaic landscapes; how to strengthen cultural and environmental rights and sovereignty in the face of tremendous change; and how to make science more collaborative in its theory and by incorporating multiple voices.

moderated by:

Perry Maddox (Johns Hopkins University)

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