Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Santa Cruz

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Environmental Science, University of California / Santa Cruz
Cross-Pollinating Agri-Culture, Ecosystems and Food: Human/Bee Relationships in Traditional Small-Scale Agroecosystems

Behind every cup of coffee, fruit salad, and chocolate bar there are hundreds of pollinating insects that serve as links between forests, agricultural fields and food. Insects, especially bees, mediate the production of about 75% crop plants consumed worldwide, yet their populations are undergoing dramatic declines. Given the generalized decline of honeybee populations, the contribution of native bees and strategies to promote their conservation are receiving increasing attention from academics and governmental agencies worldwide. However, the connection between the role of pollinators in food production and their social and cultural significance is largely unknown. This project seeks to investigate the cultural repertoire by which traditional smallholders in Colombia relate to native bees, and its implications to bee populations and to farmers' livelihood security. I aim to 1) describe and analyze the beliefs, traditional knowledge and practical engagements among people and bees in agricultural contexts; 2) evaluate the proximate drivers of local land use changes and agricultural management practices, and their possible tradeoffs with the conservation of native bee communities; and 3) Estimate the relative contribution of pollinators to smallholders' livelihood security. To inform my objectives, I will engage with methods such as interviews, free listing of flowering plants and insects, focus groups, participant observation and biological surveys. This project represents an empirical case study that can shed light on similar processes happening in traditional agricultural systems across developing countries. It engages with scholarship that analyzes transforming nature-culture interactions such as anthropology, ethnobiology, agroecology and political. My study will also contribute to interdisciplinary scholarship analyzing pollination declines worldwide, which is an urgent issue with important implications to food security throughout the world.