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

Best Incorporation of a Study Abroad Experience

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.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

6 responses to “Puffins, the Charismatic Clowns of the Sea: Examining the Relationship Between Community Identity and the Social Construction of Animals”

  1. Jenna Smith says:

    Wonderful job, Megan! It is clear that your project was both rewarding and very meaningful to you 🙂

  2. Heather Fitz Gibbon says:

    Can’t wait for your presentation! Great video!

  3. Denise Bostdorff says:

    Congrats, Megan. I’m looking forward to your presentation this afternoon. More on puffins!

  4. jillian ness says:

    Congrats Megan!!

  5. Carina Arnosti says:

    Congrats Meggy! Were you able to find other human/animal relationships where people are able to conserve while also using the animals in their cultural traditions?

  6. Abby McFarren says:

    Yay for puffins!! Congratulations on such a cool project!

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