My dissertation research was a collaborative effort (partnered with the Malagasy government and both national and international NGOs) to evaluate agricultural change in the eastern Madagascar province of Toamasina. To understand the cultural aspects of changing agricultural practices, I compared three sample populations that include a small town, a village and scattered communities, which all had differing relationships with conservation organizations. The hypothesis examined in my dissertation was whether the information conservation organizations are giving to the local populations on non-indigenous agricultural practices is displacing knowledge of indigenous agricultural practices.
My future research plans are twofold. First, I plan to continue my applied research in Madagascar. While my dissertation has described how three small populations vary in their knowledge of swidden agriculture, the Malagasy government and development organizations require data across several regions of Madagascar to base their programs. While I have a good understanding of the variation of knowledge within my dissertation research site, I need to explore how the variation compares with other nearby groups. Second, I have begun an internet project on risk taking and environmental concern among Americans. This project is useful as a teaching tool, as students trained in and conducting ethnographic interviews may then interpret large sample sets collected on the internet.
While I finish analyzing and writing about my research during the summer of 2011, I am planning field research in Belize this summer.
For more information on my current applied research, please visit the Center for Applied Anthropology.