Puffins, the Charismatic Clowns of the Sea: Examining the Relationship Between Community Identity and the Social Construction of Animals
Name: Megan Tuennerman
Majors: Sociology, Environmental Studies
Advisors: Dr. Heather Fitz Gibbon
This study analyzes the factors, internal and external, that affect the relationship between community identity and the social construction of animals, and the ways in which that social construction impacts the environment. Studied through the lens of the relationship between Atlantic Puffins and the human communities they live near, these questions situate our understanding of human societies as within, as opposed to above, the environment. Without this perspective, enacting environmental protections across the globe is ineffective. The study was conducted using ethnographic methods, including 11 formal interviews with community members and experts, along with observations in Iceland and Canada. Results indicate that human/animal relationships are interwoven with local cultures and social structures, so that models and definitions of conservation have to be based on the local context.
As an environmental studies and sociology double major, this study perfectly combined my interests. Every step of this project, from collecting the data while abroad, to analyzing my findings with my advisor, to receiving Copeland funding in order to further enhance my work, was exciting due to the opportunities it presented. I am excited to find a way to continue this research as I continue my career in animal conservation.
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