30 March 2008

Pretend your audience is nekkid

I have three presentations coming up in April and a fourth is scheduled for July. Two concern my Fulbright/NSF research in Mozambique for the past year - a preliminary summary of my results - and will be given at the US Public Affairs Office and Reserva Especial de Maputo (for reserve staff and the community). These will be the most stressful as I really feel uncomfortable giving preliminary results. Data analysis will be really rough. You would think that having taught high school, college, and given several presentations to colleagues, peers, and the Induna I would stop being nervous about this sort of thing. Ha!

Public speaking has gotten easier, but it will always be a struggle for me. I am at my most whacked-out nervous when I am presenting my own research. I think it is because I know where the flaws are, where I could have done better, where the gaping holes exist... I get nervous anticipating the aggressive questioning that could ensue. Most people will not be cruel or mean, but occasionally an audience has one person who just likes to make other people look bad. Being told that one's research is worthless and ideas stupid is probably every speaker's worst nightmare. And every time I step to the front of the room I confront it head on.

At least, I don't feel the need to puke before presentations anymore. Now I just get sweaty palms and a build up of nervous energy. After the first couple of minutes I'm usually fine and if the presentation is short enough, I can even get through the Q & A without problems.

toothpaste for dinner

At least one of my presentations next month will be a tag-team effort with my friend Jessica. She is an interdisciplinary doctoral student working in Mozambique's Limpopo National Park on a project looking at the effects of community relocation. From the program schedule, it looks like we will be the only social scientists at the Kruger Science Meetings. It will be interesting.

A New Look at the Landscape Consequences of Population Resettlement from Protected Areas

Many conservationists promote relocation of residents of protected areas to foster the conservation of biodiversity. Historical and archaeological evidence shows that what we consider to be savanna wilderness has been shaped in part by human activities over time. Using a landscape approach, we question the principles behind relocation of people to improve conservation efforts, using examples from Kruger NP, Reserva Especial de Maputo (REM), and Limpopo NP. Following the Yellowstone Park model, South Africa relocated permanent settlements when creating protected areas, whereas people continue to inhabit all of Mozambique’s protected areas. In the absence of historical human disturbance, the Kruger experience demonstrates that the maintenance of a savanna landscape requires careful conservation management planning. In contrast, residents around REM maintain certain landscape functions and features in pursuit of livelihood activities using tools such as fire. These examples suggest that what protected area managers see as conservation problems could in fact contain opportunities for landscape management. Today, there is increasing pressure to relocate Mozambicans living in parks and reserves, including current resettlement efforts in the Limpopo NP. Without romanticizing an ecologically noble savage, we examine the difficulties of people living in protected areas, the role of human activity on the savanna, and potential landscape management consequences of relocation in the Limpopo NP.

Lastly, I will be presenting at the Society for Conservation Biology meetings again in Chattanooga, TN in July. I'll have a bit more time to get a full analysis of my data and hopefully a strong paper draft before the meetings.

Burning the savanna: fire ethnoecology on coastal savanna in Southern Mozambique

Landscape managers in southern Africa use fire as a tool to maintain and conserve savanna. Many of these prescribed burn regimes are based on modeling using historic information and onsite experimentation. The long history of anthropogenic fire disturbance in southern Africa suggests that indigenous ecological knowledge could provide further insight into location-specific fire ecology and disturbance cycles. This study investigates the ethnoecology of fire and burn practices in two Ronga communities in southeastern Mozambique. Local knowledge of fire ecology and disturbance cycles, techniques for controlled burns, reasons for burning, and community fire policies were explored through oral histories, conversations with livelihood activity specialists, and targeted interviews about fire. Small, regular controlled burns, used to clear agricultural fields and improve animal forage, produce a patchy mosaic of grass and wooded habitat across the coastal savanna landscape. Oral histories indicate that fire was also used in the past for hunting. Prescribed burn regimes under development in South Africa for the southern end of this region parallel traditional burn practices used just over the border in Mozambique.

If anyone has any comments or questions or suggestions about either abstract I'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

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