Emily Wells is a Master of Environmental Studies student in Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies. With her supervisor, Dr. Kate Sherren, her work focuses on how the Mi’kmaq value, relate to, and approach coastal adaptation in Landscape One, Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy dykelands. Her full profile is available here.
The International Association for Society and Natural Resources (IASNR) is a prestigious, international community of social scientists, policy makers, and practitioners that study and manage human relationships with the environment and natural resources. IASNR hosts an annual conference for its members with the primary objectives of sharing and enhancing scientific understandings of society-natural resource relationships and facilitating cross-sectoral collaboration among social scientists (students, faculty, and industry), policy makers, and practitioners in these fields.
I had the privilege of attending the 2022 IANSR conference at the University of Costa Rica in San José from June 26-29. Costa Rica is a global leader in conservation and presented an ideal venue to deliberate the conference’s theme, Sustainable Development in Practice: Integrating People, Place, and Policy. I contributed a poster describing the preliminary results of my research on relational values in Indigenous contexts – if you’re curious to read more, refer to the information box below:
Connecting Relational Values to Their Embedded Concepts
Synthesizing concepts derived from human-nature relationships in Indigenous contexts to assess their contribution to relational values discourses
Since the establishment of Ecosystem Services (ES) or, more recently, Nature’s Contributions to People (NCP), discourses around environmental assessment have evolved from prioritizing instrumental values (i.e., how does nature benefit people?) and intrinsic values (i.e., what is nature’s inherent value, independent of people?) to include relational values. Relational values are shown to better align with land-based worldviews, such as those of many Indigenous people.
Relational values comprise a range of concepts that themselves have a rich history and literature that is not being clearly connected to relational values discourses. Working specifically in Indigenous contexts, this study aims to locate relational value concepts and situate them within the typologies of the current discourses on relational values. The author employed a scoping review methodology to locate and thematically code studies that feature relevant concepts.
This study demonstrated that discussions around the antecedents of relational values and their specific Indigenous expressions bring further context to and enrich relational value discourses. We identified the relevance of particular relational values in Indigenous contexts, outlined the language used to describe these values, and presented emergent concepts that aligned closely with Indigenous ethics. Engaging with these parallel literatures may strengthen the goals of relational values, such as bridging knowledge systems and promoting sustainability, while identifying Indigenous-specific relational values is also critical for meaningful collaboration and contribution to relational value assessments and, more broadly, co-management decisions.
During the main conference days, I attended presentations, workshops, and organized sessions on numerous topics that all centred on the intersections of natural resources and societies. Practitioners and researchers shared emerging knowledge on topics like stakeholder engagement in social-ecological systems (SES), Indigenous action, innovative qualitative method tools, ecological restoration, and coastal and marine management. If you’re familiar with ResNet’s Landscape One (L1), you can appreciate the uncanny alignment between these topics and our own research. I was in my niche. I am coming away from these sessions with practical lessons for my work, such as relevant theories and soon-to-be-released papers, as well as direct connections with the experts that are advancing knowledge in these fields.
Gratefully, there was an abundance of spaces and opportunities to connect with these experts informally outside of the sessions. I attended a pre-conference field trip to Tapantí National Park, a student forum, and a closing banquet on the hilltops that overlook the nation’s expansive capital city, San José. As a COVID-era graduate student, I have had limited opportunities to expand my professional and academic network, especially in-person. I am also new to social sciences, making the IASNR conference an exceptional opportunity to cross pollinate with people that share my interests and fields. I became more adept at identifying common interests with potential mentors and colleagues, which led to more meaningful and fruitful conversations. My contact list grew exponentially with each day of the conference. I am leaving the conference feeling energized and excited about future research, practice, and networking.
Moving forward, I am preparing my literature review results presented at the conference into a manuscript. I am contacting key colleagues from IASNR to establish ongoing relationships through mentorship and occasional coffee dates.
I am indebted to numerous people for the opportunity to attend IASNR 2022. I would first like to thank Dr. Kate Sherren, my supervisor and the L1 co-lead, for providing generous and continuous support throughout my thesis, including this literature review and conference. Her long-standing involvement in IASNR became a great conversation starter, and she was highly encouraging of me attending and making the most of it. Second, I thank the IASNR conference organizers for pulling together an impactful and safe conference; I can hardly imagine the challenges of organizing an in-person event for such a volume of people from around the world, yet they did so (seemingly) seamlessly. Finally, I would like to thank the many bodies that fund my learning: Dalhousie’s Department of Graduate Studies (DAGS) provided a travel grant for this excursion, while Nova Scotia’s Department of Agriculture, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canadian Graduate Scholarship (CGS-M), and, of course, NSERC ResNet fund my thesis. ¡Muchas gracias!