Doctoral Research: Examining Indigenous Consultation in Costa Rica
My dissertation research investigates the normative concept of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), as it applies to indigenous people, within the context of Costa Rica's National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, or EN-REDD+. At a fundamental level, I’m interested in the question: what is ‘informed consent’? In other words, how do different actors perceive, conceptualize, and understand informed consent in both policy and practice? And how do we—as anthropologists and applied practitioners—evaluate it? I use a mix-method approach that combines political ecology, multi-sited ethnography, and social network analysis (SNA) to explore these questions. In utilizing Costa Rica as a case study, I hope to develop a replicable framework through which to evaluate FPIC consultation processes under emerging climate policy. The ultimate goal is to co-produce an evaluative tool that can easily be used by communities themselves to aid in advocacy and decision-making efforts.
This research is supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Research Grant. I’ll be conducting fieldwork for this project through June 2022. Final results are anticipated in the Spring of 2023.
COVID, Conservation & (Eco)tourism
In addition to my doctoral research, I am also co-directing a side project titled, Conservation Beyond Crisis: Assessing Resilience and Adaptive Capacity at the Conservation-Tourism Nexus in Costa Rica. As one may imagine, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted management and tourism in conservation and protected areas around the world. Cuts to funding and staff have exacerbated conservation threats such as illegal logging, poaching, and mining. Meanwhile, the crisis has also revealed the vulnerability of communities that rely on nature-based tourism for their livelihoods. This collaborative research project utilizes qualitative methods to investigate the current on-the-ground impacts and livelihood adaptation strategies in two of Costa Rica’s most well-known conservation and ecotourism hotspots: Monteverde and the Osa Peninsula. The overarching objective of the study is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing consequences and potential benefits of the pandemic and identify factors that contribute to greater community livelihood resilience.
This study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jan Breitling and a team of international M.A. students within the Department of Environment and Development at the UN-mandated University for Peace in San José, Costa Rica.
Indigenous Participation and Knowledge Sharing in the UN Climate Negotiations
Increasingly, policymakers, activists, and scholars alike have called for greater integration of indigenous voices and knowledge within global climate governance. In 2015, under the Paris Accord, this call resulted in the creation of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples (LCIP) Platform. The LCIP Platform aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices in addressing climate change. Drawing upon research conducted at the 2018 Conference of the Parties (COP24), this project examined the ever-evolving roles of indigenous peoples within the UNFCCC negotiations. It explored their current viewpoints, demands for inclusion, and perceptions of developing participation mechanisms such as the LCIP Platform.
Examining the Political-Cultural Impacts of Hydro Development in Indigenous Territories
The past decade has seen an unprecedented resurgence in dam-building throughout the developing world. This proliferation can be traced to the growing concern over global climate change, as dam proponents endorsing hydropower as a renewable-energy alternative to fossil fuels. However, empirical evidence shows that new large-scale dam development contributes to a myriad of negative social and environmental impacts. Using the Bonyic Hydroelectric Complex as a case study, this project investigated the socio-cultural and political consequences of “green” dam-building in the Naso territory of Bocas del Toro, Panamá. Results indicate that the Bonyic spurred significant governance and livelihood transitions, which adversely affected the Naso’s struggle for land rights.
This project was conceived as an extension of a graduate fellowship at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Regional Office for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (IUCN-ORAMCC). Financial support for the project was provided by American University’s School of International Service. The final results of this study were incorporated into my master’s thesis and ultimately published in an article in the Journal of International Service.