06 May 2007

NSF Funding

May Day had a pretty exciting start for me. The first thing I do in the morning is read my email as I eat breakfast. I have been expecting a rejection letter from NSF (National Science Foundation) for my dissertation proposal now for over a month, but to my surprise my proposal was sent on by my cultural anthropology reviewers for finally approval by the head of NSF (or whoever it is that approves these things). Let's just say I didn't need a cup of coffee to get going that morning.

Holding back my excitement was really difficult. I can't just randomly shout for joy in a city. Srs. Pedro, Jaime, and Sergio, my building guards, would probably take issue for the false alarm. Instead, I did a silent Snoopy dance; taking care not to stomp too loudly because of my downstairs neighbors since it was pretty early. It might seem silly to get so excited, but I felt the same when I received word that I had been awarded a Fulbright. In fact, I had Ted Gragson, my faculty advisor, read my Fulbright acceptance email just to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating. I actually turned cartwheels that time.

I wasn't going to post about it until I had a confirmation letter in hand (but I got scooped), because there is still the off chance that the US Congress will completely lose it and NSF will lose its funding budget. You might find that a bit unbelievable, but only the day after I found out that I would most likely be awarded NSF funding for my dissertation, there was a vote in the House to stop funding certain anthropological research. Two congressmen, Campbell (CA-R) and Garrett (NJ-R), decided that some of the titles were too ridiculous to fund, regardless of what they might tell us about humanity and human history. Some of them had funny titles like "the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others' emotions" or "cognitive model of superstitious belief" or "bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains" or "social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre's Leaf Monkeys" The House representatives also proposed to limit NSF funding in general.

This is just typical of the anti-intellectualist and over-the-top fundie religious bullshit that has been directing my country for at least the past decade. Fortunately, H.R. 1867 got voted down. If people wonder why the US is slipping in science and math, or why more native-born US citizens don't become scientists, this might be a clue. I seriously doubt that if these studies contributed to building better bombs or killing people more efficiently that they would have ever been considered for funding restrictions. [sarcasm] Understanding how emotions work in other cultures could only contribute to greater understanding between people working in cross-cultural situations, so lets screw that project over. What a complete and utter waste of Americans' tax dollars. [/sarcasm]

In the interests of full disclosure of where your tax dollars are going, here is the abstract I submitted to NSF for public review. A silly title is attached. Thank you everyone (including my advisor and the anonymous NSF reviewers) for contributing to my education, a greater understanding of the relationship between culture and landscape, and the advancement of science. Seriously. In the words of one of my reviewers, "It is not flashy or very exciting but it may be a useful contribution, and it has a practical side as well."

Ronga Wild Plant Harvest and the Conservation of Coastal Savanna Landscape in Southern Mozambique

Social and ecological factors, as well as, the spatial and temporal patchiness of resource distribution, direct resource user behavior in a landscape. Southern Mozambique's coastal savanna landscape is rich in flora and faunal species due to the highly diverse range of available habitats like forest, grasslands, and wetlands. This landscape’s spatial and temporal heterogeneity offers Ronga horticulturists a high diversity of wild plants to harvest for various subsistence needs. Preliminary fieldwork shows a high dependence on plant resources by Ronga communities in the region. This dissertation project proposes to (1) analyze the importance of various social and ecological factors in directing the spatial and temporal patch choice and use of Ronga wild plant harvest, and (2) investigate the specific effects of Rongan wild plant harvests on coastal savanna vegetation diversity, abundance, and distribution.

The proposed research combines ethnographic and ecological approaches to gather information about current and historic Rongan use of wild plant resources and landscape in two coastal savanna communities over a 16-month period. Incorporation of user spatial behavior, and the factors directing it, is critical for developing realistic landscape conservation management plans that meet locally specific needs for both humans and wild species. The proposed research will be used to develop a management plan recognizing Ronga resource use and needs for the Futi Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA). It will also serve as a methodological model for documenting the community resource use information needed to create conservation plans at Great Limpopo and Gorongoza TFCAs in Mozambique, and potentially elsewhere.


  1. You're right on with your criticism of those Congressmen. Why do these people find these titles so silly? We expect Congresspersons to be educated, but clearly the subversion of our national interest - promoting learning and scientific research - has been subverted to *other* interests. I hope NSF keeps its funding!

  2. I hope that NSF keeps its funding too. NSF is supposed to increase its budget in 2007 to $6 billion - with most of the increase going to physical sciences R & D. Social sciences will also see an increase, but no nearly so much. But compared to what is being spent on military ($626.1 billion in 2007), science R & D is a drop in the bucket.

  3. Ciao
    volevo farti i complimenti hai un sito bellissimo un abbraccio dall'Italia

    Bravo! Ton site est excellent
    Perdon, je n'ecrire pas bien le français, votre web est tres belle. Merci et salutations

  4. Obrigada Elisa para seu elogios.