Case studies in biodiversity restoration, tourism, hunting, farming, and conflict will be explored. We will debate recent controversies in animal conservation and welfare to discover how geography and ecology might inform outcomes.
Readings will draw on recent books and inter-disciplinary journals publishing in human-animal anthropology, psychology, sociology, and ecology.
The aim is to draw animal studies in geography together with newer work in ecology and apply them in human-animal management.
Human impacts on the world’s ecosystems are now ubiquitous. Conflicts with animals, and human conflict because of animals, are also growing in human-dominated landscapes – our cities and farms. The global economies based on domestic animals and biodiversity are fundamental and enormous.
Early ecology benefited very much from the musings of geographers, including animal geography’s intellectual work of the late-19th century. Zoogeography became biogeography – treated largely in ecological texts – because it made sense of ecosystems. But geography as a discipline moved on.
Ecology, meet the new geography – Animal geography was influenced by the move to cultural ecology during the 20th century, and has focused on human-animal relationships, especially with domestic animals.
Unsurprisingly, ecology seems yet again ready to absorb, or at least co-opt, this conceptual advance. Human-animal relationships contribute novel, influential, and indivisible complexity to already complex biological networks. In the applied disciplines like Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology as well, understanding and treating the interactions of animals and human cultures has become pivotal to making lasting progress in the rescue of biodiversity.
Geography, meet ecology – But the conceptual gifts between geography and ecology might not continue to be so one-sided. Animal geographers continue to provide new thinking on human-animal relations by incorporating ecological and ethical frameworks as guides to species interactions.
The biodiversity extinction crisis that motivates ecology and its application has also motivated geographers to consider animals other than those domesticated and adopt ecological perspectives – the human-animal relationship as part of the larger ecological network.
In my next post – guest blogs from participants in this course on the geographies of rhino, zebra, horses, and tapir.