My research publications are focused around three interrelated themes:
Theme 1: People and Protected Areas
Theme 2: Geospatial Technologies, Resource Access Across Environmental Gradients
Theme 3: Wildlife-Livestock Competition in Drylands
Theme 4: Technology in Environment and Development
THEME 1: People and Protected Areas
How do pastoralists around protected areas cope with drought?
Livestock mobility facilitates opportunistic grazing management strategies that pastoralists employ to counter environmental variability in rangelands. One such strategy is moving livestock to temporary camps that are closer to areas of under-utilized forage during times of drought. In areas where pastoralists graze near large protected areas, movement into protected areas, where both forage quantity and quality are higher, is also a common strategy. The aim of this study is to test hypotheses of herd relocation and effects of seasonality and herd size on spatially explicit parameters of cattle mobility for Maasai pastoralists along the northern border of a protected area in Kenya. Results suggest that household relocation reduces the stress faced by pastoralists and their cattle during the drought by: (1) lowering the average total daily distance and time traveled by cattle; (2) directing cattle towards the protected area; and (3) concentrating cattle grazing in distinct areas within the protected area. Herd size was found to have no effect on duration of travel for pastoralists that choose not to relocate during the drought. The research demonstrates how the use of modified low-cost GPS collars can be an effective tool for capturing parameters of mobility and for inferring pastoralist-livestock-rangeland relationships.
Butt, B., A. Shortridge, and A. M. G. A. WinklerPrins. (2009).Pastoral Herd Management, Drought Coping Strategies, and Cattle Mobility in Southern Kenya. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(2):309-334. doi:10.1080/00045600802685895
How do parks affect the ability of pastoralists to cope with environmental variability?
Across East Africa, there are a large number of pastoralists who reside around protected areas (PAs). Over the last few decades pastoralists have been affected by the loss of grazing lands and increasing climatic variability. Many pastoralists who reside around PAs have resorted to grazing inside PAs to counter environmental variability. However, there is little information on how PAs influence the herding strategies of pastoralists. Using a case study from southern Kenya, this study employs a spatially and temporally explicit mixed-methods approach to understand and evaluate the herding strategies of pastoralists around a PA. The results of the study find that pastoralists access PAs on a regular basis, regardless of seasonality or herd size. Movement into PAs was partly driven by the loss of grazing land to conservancies. PAs affected pastoral herding by presenting differential opportunity costs to different groups. However, households with large herd sizes utilized the most flexible strategies to counter environmental variability and uncertainty.
Butt, B. (2011). Coping with Uncertainty and Variability: The Influence of Protected Areas on Pastoral Herding Strategies in East Africa. Human Ecology 39(3): 289-307 doi: 10.1007/s10745-011-9399-6
What are the drivers of resource conflicts between pastoralists and protected area institutions?
Increased resource scarcity, the social construction of nature, the disintegration of moral economy and associated policy shifts are often cited as the main drivers of resource conflicts in East Africa. Research in geography, anthropology and rural sociology has unveiled how common explanations of resource conflicts overlook multi-scalar political, economic, social, cultural and environmental tensions. The purpose of this study is to provide more nuanced explanations of resource conflicts by incorporating three disparate but related threads of literature. Using literatures on the commodification of nature, multi-stranded notions of identity and geographical conceptualizations of ‘place’, I demonstrate how three transformational moments structure and propagate conflicts between herders and protected area managers around a national park in Kenya. I argue that the rise of a commoditized form of nature tourism coupled with idealized notions of ‘nature’ and ‘wilderness’ have altered the micro-geography of interaction between herders and protected area managers. These altered geographies of interaction have diluted the shared history and traditional relations of reciprocity, created new social milieux, and lead to the creation of binary identities among herders and protected area managers. The enforcement of these binary identities culminates in conflict.
Butt, B. (2012) Commoditizing the Safari and Making Space for Conflict: Place, Identity and Parks in East Africa Political Geography 31(2): 104-113 doi: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.11.002
Why are cattle grazing inside protected areas?: Towards a political ecology of incursions.
Across the world, the presence of livestock in national parks is considered to be an “incursion” which threatens the economic and ecological viability of protected areas. However, these popular narratives inaccurately describe the relationships between people and protected areas because they are devoid of appropriate political, economic, ecological and historical contexts. In this paper, I rely on a political-ecological framework to argue for an alternative narrative. Through a case study from a world famous protected area in southern Kenya, I demonstrate how “incursions” are modern productions which arise from the intersections between changing political geographies of resource control and variable animal geographies of resource utilization. I rely on direct empirical and supporting evidence from place based studies to illustrate the spatial and temporal differences in resource access strategies of wildlife and livestock within and outside the protected area. I contrast these against changing land tenure and resource management policies to highlight how livestock movements into protected areas are patterned in ways that reflect the changing nature of protected area management and the material conditions of the landscape. The paper highlights the role of geospatial technologies in unveiling patterns of resource utilization in ways that are unique and different from traditional rural appraisals. Through these investigations, this paper provides a more accurate and nuanced explanation for livestock movements into protected areas.
Butt, B. (2014) “The Political Ecology of Livestock Incursions into Protected Areas: Technology, Place and Socio-Ecological Dynamics in the Mara Region of Kenya” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 84(4): 614-637 doi: 10.1017/S0001972014000515
More of the Same or Something New? Accumulation by dispossession and the making of conservancies in East Africa.
Prior efforts to conserve wildlife in sub-Saharan Africa have resulted in numerous human rights failures. In an attempt to move beyond this troublesome past, new initiatives increasingly consider local peoples participation in the conservation and development process. In Kenya, part of this movement has resulted in the creation of “new” conservation areas which have been carved out of former communal group ranches. The shift from communal to individual land tenure has attracted the attention of global and local investors who seeks to create private conservation spaces (i.e. conservancies) outside neighboring state management protected areas. These investors invoke neoliberal tenets where privatization and market exchange are presumed to hold the key to the sustainability of people, wildlife and livestock in a fragile ecosystem. By drawing on a case study from southern Kenya, I demonstrate that such initiatives hinder rather than help the sustainability of arid lands by erasing the histories and geographies of pastoral resource use, access and control. In particular, I highlight how the resource managers fail to adequately consider the varied spatiality and temporality of pastoral livestock and wildlife movements. Such initiatives lead to the further displacement of local people and exacerbate environmental and social change by concentrating grazing densities in state managed protected areas.
Butt, B. (2015). “Neoliberalism, Conservation and Dispossession in Kenya’s Arid Lands“. Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 7(1): 91-110
THEME 2: Pastoralism, Geospatial Technologies and Resource Use and Access Across Environmental Gradients
Is Pastoralism suddenly good again? Why? Ecology, Mobility and Labour: Dynamic Pastoral Herd Management in an Uncertain World
In this review, I discuss how pastoralism, and its many constituent components, is increasingly being recognised as in tune with the changing political and ecological nature of rangelands. He describes ways in which the literature reflects this changing attitude, outlines how rangelands respond to changes in climate and explores the evolving use of livestock resources. In addition, he describes the growing recognition of factors other than livestock density that affect rangeland vegetation (i.e. density-independent relationships). I explain how terms such as ‘carrying capacity’, ‘overgrazing’ and ‘desertification’ are often taken out of their social and political context when describing rangeland pastoralism. Next, I describe the growing recognition by the development community of the importance of the mobility model, particularly in relation to changing ecologies and politics. Finally, I outlines how labour, a central focus of pastoral herd management, is a fluid component of pastoral systems in response to changing political and ecological circumstances.
Butt, B. (2016) “Ecology, Mobility and Labour: Dynamic Pastoral Herd Management in an Uncertain World”. OIE Scientific and Technical Review 35(2): 461-472 doi: 10.20506/rst.35.2.2530 (Invited Submission to the World Organization for Animal Health on ‘The Future of Pastoralism’)
What is the spatial and temporal distribution of grazing pressure on the landscape?
This study was conducted to understand how seasonality in drylands influences the space-time dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility among pastoralist managed Zebu cattle. The study relies on the use of handmade collars holding global positioning system (GPS) units to document the spatially and temporally explicit patterns of cattle mobility, field based herd-follows to document cattle behavior, and key informant interviews to document the role of pastoral herding strategies in explaining these patterns. Data were analyzed as a function of seasonality, distance from household, time of day, and land cover zone. During the dry season, there was an unexpectedly high frequency of grazing/walking cattle behavior. This pattern is attributed to tracking strategies of Maasai pastoralists resulting in movement to niche grazing areas. During the wet season a bimodal distribution of grazing behavior can be attributed to milking strategies. The study concludes that simple, low cost GPS collars are an effective and easily replicable method to help understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility, and patterns of cattle mobility are related to seasonal constraints. Differences between different cattle behaviors can be partly explained by cultural herding practices of Maasai pastoralists.
Butt, B. (2010). Seasonal space-time dynamics of cattle behavior and mobility among Maasai pastoralists in semi-arid Kenya. Journal of Arid Environments 74(3):403-413.doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.09.025
Does herd size influence the grazing patterns of pastoral livestock?: Moving beyond simplistic categories.
I investigated the effects of herd size on the grazing dynamics of pastoral cattle, using a case study from southern Kenya. GPS units were attached to pastoral cattle in herds of differing sizes. Track data was merged with 16-day MODIS NDVI to understand how herd size is related to patterns of cattle mobility, the quality and quantity of forage accessed as well as grazing efficiency. Herd size was found to have insignificant effects on the quantity and quality of forage accessed as well as grazing efficiency. Seasonality and the maximum distance cattle were herded strongly influences resource access strategies.The insignificant effects of herd size are related to changes in herd size along grazing routes due to contingent amalgamations of herds to form “functional” herd groups comprised of different herd ownerships. These findings provide useful information for understanding how the seasonal resource access among pastoralists can vary with respect to different social groups
How do patterns of pastoral resource access and utilization differ within and between seasons?
The relationships between pastoralists, livestock and the environment in dryland Africa are complex. Over the last half century the dominant narratives have portrayed pastoralists and their livestock as being responsible for over grazing and degradation without attention to how resource availability and cattle mobility are spatially distributed and temporally variable. The objective of this study is to test hypotheses on the nature, magnitude and extent of the spatially and temporally explicit interactions between the density and distribution of pastoral cattle and resource availability. The study relies on coupling remotely sensed vegetation indices with cattle GPS collar data for a pastoral community in southern Kenya. Data are temporally stratified in order to account for seasonal effects. Across seasons, there is a positive relationship between cattle mobility and resource availability with the trend more pronounced during drier periods, reflecting a strategy of increased resource access. The relationship between cattle density and vegetation reveals a strategy of increased resource utilization during wetter periods. The spatiality of high density areas differs by season, revealing that cattle intensively utilize different parts of the landscape at different times. Areas closest to the household are consistently impacted by cattle across all seasons. These findings have implications on how the savanna vegetation may be impacted as trends towards sedentarization and reduced pastoral mobility continue.
Butt, B. (2010). Pastoral resource access and utilization: quantifying the spatial and temporal relationships between livestock mobility, density and biomass availability in southern Kenya. Land Degradation and Development 21(6): 520-539 doi:10.1002/ldr.989
How does rangeland phenology in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa change over time and space?: Applications of MODIS NDVI Imagery
This study is concerned with the implications of changing latitudinal gradients in vegetative phenology (green-up, senescence, and length of growing season) for the management of long-distance seasonal movements of livestock herds in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa. For a study area covering much of the southern half of Mali, phenological parameters were estimated using a double-logistic function fitted to seasonal NDVI trajectories for 1 km2 MODIS data over the period 2000-2010. Green-up dates, senescence dates and length of growing season were all found to more strongly vary by latitude (+9 days/degree, −5 days/degree and −14 days/degree, respectively) than across years (+0.42 days/year, +0.86 days/year and +0.44 days/year respectively). Interannual and spatial variability of these parameters are highest at lower latitudes within the study area. The slopes of the relationship of phenological parameters with latitude change across the latitudinal range studied. Breakpoint analysis of annual green-up versus latitude curves identifies a mean inflection point of 13 degrees north latitude above which the positive slope declines significantly. This previously undescribed pattern is consistent with recent work on monsoonal dynamics showing rainfall onset being associated with an abrupt shift in the location of the ITCZ (monsoon onset) at latitudes north of 13 degrees north latitude. The effects of the observed variation in latitudinal gradients of phenological variables on the direction and timing of regional livestock movements are discussed.
Butt, B. Turner, M, Singh, A. & Brottem, L. (2011). Use of MODIS NDVI to evaluate changing latitudinal gradients of rangeland phenology in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa. Remote Sensing of Environment. Remote Sensing of Environment 115(12): 3367-3376 doi: 10.1016 j.rse.2011.08.001
How do we merge hetergenous landscapes with rule making regarding pastoral resource access?
This paper focuses on a conundrum that has dominated the literature on pastoral mobility and institutions in dryland regions of the world, where livestock production is the main livelihood system. High spatiotemporal variability of rainfall and forage resources are seen to require flexible rules and porous social boundaries to facilitate pastoral mobility—characteristics that run counter to conventional views of the requirements for effective common property institutions. We seek to explore this paradox by investigating the spatiotemporal variability of forage availability (using satellite derived vegetation indices as a proxy for green forage) in four transhumance zones (“transhumance sheds”) in Mali, West Africa. For each transhumance shed, three characteristics with important institutional implications are evaluated over an eleven-year period between 2000 and 2010: the inter-annual variability of forage phenology, seasonal changes in connectivity of green forage patches, and the degree to which key forage locations exist in the form of consistently early green-up and/or late senescence. Periods of vegetation green-up and senescence, which determine the timing of transhumant livestock movements, are found to be sufficiently regular from year to year to be governed by conventional institutions. Seasonal changes in the north-south connectivity of green patches are sufficiently rapid for customary systems of sharing of pasture information to be effective (rather than more technologically sophisticated systems of pasture information). Moreover, transhumance sheds contain key pastoral forage sites, which because of their consistently early greening or late senescence, are strong candidates for territorial protection from alternative land uses such as agriculture. These findings support local herders’ views of transhumance as composed of regular patterns of herd movements along prescribed corridors between key pastoral sites. The seasonal regularity of key pastoral resources has been obscured by an overemphasis on environmental unpredictability that characterizes dryland systems at certain spatial and temporal scales. This paper suggests that policies directed at improving pastoral resource governance must focus instead on securing pastoralists’ access rights to movement corridors, specific pastures and water points.
Brottem, L. Turner, M. Butt, B. and A. Singh. (2014) “Biophysical Variability and Pastoral Rights to Resources: West African Transhumance Revisited” Human Ecology 42(3): 351-365 doi: 10.1007/s10745-014-9640-1
Is the grass always greener on the other side? Understanding Variation in Vegetation Cover and Livestock Mobility Needs in Sahelian West Africa
A new approach, using 1 km2 MODIS NDVI, was developed to evaluate the implications of spatiotemporal variability of green vegetation for the necessary dispersion of livestock to access quality forage in semi-arid WestAfrica. Maximum NDVI was determined for concentric rings (0-31 km radii) around 227 individual sample locations within the study area for 14 dates (between April 1 to November 1) annually over the 2000-2010 period. A sigmoidal curve was fitted to points within the maximum NDVI x distance radii space to determine the asymptote distance (AD) – the radius at which further dispersion from the sample location does not lead to significant gains in access to green forage. AD was found to increase with latitude (or increasing aridity); declines as the rainy-season proceeds; and show no trend over the 2000-2010 period. These results introduce much-needed empirical data to current debates surrounding the scales of governance to support livestock mobility.
Turner, M., Butt, B., Singh, A.*, Brottem, L.*, Ayantunde, A., and B. Gerard. (2015) “Variation in Vegetation Cover and Livestock Mobility Benefits in Sahelian West Africa” Journal of Land Use Science 11(1): 76-95 doi:10.1080/1747423X.2014.965280
THEME 3: Wildlife-Livestock Competition in East Africa's Drylands
What is the nature of the relationships between wildlife and pastoral livestock in East Africa’s drylands?
Contentious debates surrounding the relationship between peoples livelihoods and protected areas in East Africa have largely revolved around claims and counter-claims about the level of competition between pastoral livestock and wildlife. Habitat and dietary overlap are often cited as the primary mechanism by which competition occurs with both overlap and lack of overlap (displacement) used as evidence of competition. Despite the importance of this issue for the economic and environmental futures of the region, there has been little scientific progress for understanding the nature of livestock-wildlife competition. This paper seeks to add conceptual clarity to this debate by focusing attention on exploitation competition in ways that are relevant to dry land East Africa. The paper briefly reviews the changing understandings of the concept of competition in ecology. Requirements of competition, as defined in the literature, are then related to the ecological characteristics of East African rangelands. By demonstrating that competition necessarily occurs through vegetative responses, we argue that there is the need to clarify competition by differentiating between proximate competition and displaced competition. The paper concludes by outlining the implications of these clarifications for studying livestock-wildlife interactions in the dry lands of East Africa.
Butt, B. and Turner, M.D. (2012). Clarifying competition: The case of wildlife and pastoral livestock in East Africa. Pastoralism: Research, Policy, Practice 2:9 doi:10.1186/2041-7136-2-9 (Open Access Article)
The foraging ecologies of reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) and domestic camels (Camelus dromedarius) were examined in the Laikipia District of Kenya, where these species have recently become sympatric. Camels increased popularity in the region has lead to concerns about their environmental impacts and possible competition with wild giraffe because of their similar guilds. Foraging metrics were quantified using two-minute group scans that recorded feeding heights and plant food preferences. Transects sampled the vegetation in areas where foraging observations were recorded. Results indicate that camels do not overlap with giraffe. Giraffe females feed at lower elevations than males. While camels feed below both sexes of giraffe and there is no overlap in plant food preferences. Habitat type has an effect on foraging ecologies of both giraffe sexes; but habitat did not influence camel foraging. Camel herder husbandry techniques also influence camel foraging dynamics. These findings have important implications in achieving the twin goals of wildlife conservation and pastoralist livestock production.
O’Connor, D.* Butt, B. and J. Foufopoulos. (2015) “Foraging ecologies of giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) and camels (Camelus dromedarius Linnaeus) in northern Kenya: Effects of habitat structure and possibilities for competition?” African Journal of Ecology 53(2): 183-193 doi: 10.1111/aje.12204
How do you map the overlap between camels and giraffes? Put a GPS on a Camel for Starters!
Domestic livestock managed by pastoralists, and wildlife, have been sympatric in African savannahs for millennia, resulting in high densities and distributions of wildlife across the continent. Increasingly, research and conservation efforts have focused on understanding the spatial ecology of wildlife and in mapping and securing corridors for large mammals. Less well understood are the spatial dynamics, movements and resource use of the cattle, sheep, goats and increasingly camels, which overlap and interact with wildlife utilizing the same resources. While many data have been gathered on wildlife movements through collaring, similar measurements of the spatial impacts of sympatric livestock on wildlife ecology and movements are lacking.Camels (Camelus dromedaries Linnaeus) have become increasingly popular pastoralist livestock in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Few studies exist on the effects of introduced camels on ecosystem function and the resident wild herbivore communities. Camel browsing may affect forage availability, vegetation composition and structure. There have been concerns about possible competition with wild native ungulates, notably giraffe, given that camels are large-bodied and long-necked browsers (. This study examines the efficacy using GPS collars to measure the spatial ecology and browsing orbits of camels in a pastoralist setting as a means to measure overlap with wildlife.
O’Connor, D.* Butt, B. and Foufopoulos, J. “Mapping the ecological footprint of large livestock overlapping with wildlife in Kenyan pastoralist landscapes” African Journal of Ecology 54(1): 114-117 doi: 10.1111/aje.12241
THEME 4: Technology in Environment and Development
Do cell phones change the way pastoralists in dry land regions access and control grazing dynamics?
Over the last decade, the number of people who rely on cell phone technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown by rapidly. In Kenya, for example, the numbers of registered cell phone users has increased from 2 to over 22 million in the last decade. This growth has been driven by a greater number of mobile operators and a more reliable network presence in rural areas. The everyday reliance on cell phones in rural livestock communities is thought to fundamentally influence the way different social groups interact with each other and manage livelihood strategies. Scholars has suggested that cell phone technologies can usurp pre-existing social networks and can have unanticipated effects on livelihood practices, while others suggest that cell phones greatly complement and indeed strengthen existing social networks. This paper will present recent research from a pastoral community in southern Kenya which tests this hypothesis. The study finds that the use of cell phones to conduct herding practices, while common, does not directly usurp pre-existing social relations within and between social groups. While there is a strong degree of information sharing about forage resources in heterogeneous resource environments, information sharing is strongly mediated by along kin and class lines.
Butt, B. (2015) “Herding by Cell Phone: Technology, Social Networks and the ‘Transformation’ of Pastoral Herding in East Africa?” Human Ecology 43(1): 1-14 doi:10.1007/s10745-014-9707-z
Can Citizen Science Practices Help Us to Better Monitor and Manage Protected Areas in East Africa?
High quality data on the density and distribution of wildlife is essential for effective conservation and management. Protected Areas (PAs) are the cornerstone of global conservation models, yet financial support for basic monitoring infrastructure is lacking in 60% of PAs (Leverington et al. 2010). In developing countries, methods that accurately capture data on wildlife locations at fine scales over large land areas have proven to be prohibitively difficult, expensive and time-consuming (Witmer 2005; Lung and Schaab 2010). Citizen science (CS) has been shown to decrease monitoring costs while increasing public engagement (Bonney et al. 2009). Though focused largely in developed countries, CS programs are slowly expanding into developing countries. Best practice recommendations from CS programs in developing countries are few, and there are numerous problems associated with the efficacy of CS in these contexts. This research note details the problems and prospects of CS during a trial period from May to August 2013 in a PA in Kenya
Steger, C.* and Butt, B. (2015) “Integrating Citizen Science into East African Protected Areas: Problems and Prospects“. African Journal of Ecology 53(4): 592-594 doi:10.1111/aje.12199
Are all ‘citizens’ in ‘citizen science’ created equally? Pros and cons of using tourists as citizen scientists in East African Protected Areas
Protected Areas (PAs) have become the cornerstone of global conservation models, yet financial support for basic monitoring infrastructure is lacking in 60% of them. Citizen science (CS) holds great potential to address these shortcomings in PA monitoring, particularly for resource-limited conservation initiatives in developing countries – if debates over the reliability of data produced by public participants can be resolved. This study tests the reliability of CS data compared to data produced by trained ecologists in an East African context, presenting a hierarchical framework for integrating diverse datasets to assess any added variability introduced by citizen science data. A secondary objective is to advance our understanding of species distributions in East African drylands, as our data are collected at a finer temporal and spatial scale than previous studies. Our results show that while CS data are likely to be overdispersed, this error varies widely by species. We contend that CS methods, within the context of East African dryland systems, may be more appropriate for species with large body size, who are relatively rare, or those that form small herds. Our results also demonstrate that modeled species-environment relationships at fine scales differ considerably from previous models conducted at coarse spatial resolutions, emphasizing the need for further research at fine scales. The relationships displayed in our models inform current debates regarding the level of competition between wildlife and livestock, as five of our species-specific models indicate species abundance increases with proximity to livestock. As CS methods continue to gain momentum, it is critical that managers remain cautious in their implementation of these programs while working to ensure methods match data purpose.
Steger, C.*, Butt, B. and M. Hooten (2017). Safari Science? A hierarchical framework to estimate citizen science data reliability for opportunistic wildlife counts. Journal of Applied Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12921
Are pastoralists becoming vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases in dryland landscapes?
Two hundred fourteen serosamples were collected from four livestock species across five ranches in Laikipia County, Kenya. Serological analysis for Coxiella burnetii (the causative agent for Q fever) showed a distinct seroprevalence gradient: the lowest in cattle, higher in sheep and goats, and the highest in camels. Laikipia-wide aerial counts show a recent increase in the camel population. One hundred fifty-five stakeholder interviews revealed concern among veterinary, medical, ranching, and conservation professionals about Q fever. Local pastoralists and persons employed as livestock keepers, in contrast, revealed no knowledge of the disease. This work raises questions about emerging Q fever risk in Laikipia County and offers a framework for further integrative disease research in East African mixed-use systems.
DuPuy, W., Benka, V., Massey, A., Deem, S., Kinnaird, M., O’Brien, T., Wanyoike, S., Njoka, J., Butt, B., Foufopoulos, J., Eisenberg, J., and R. Hardin. (2014) “Q Fever Risk across a Dynamic Heterogeneous Landscape in Central Kenya” EcoHealth 11(3): 1-5 doi: 10.1007/s10393-014-0924-0
The trouble with ‘savanna’, particularly in Africa
Environmental categories are simplifications of reality meant to enable generalization, which is necessary to produce predictive physical geographic knowledge. However, we argue here that these categories are social constructions related to ideas shared broadly in society, including environmental deterministic explanations of human difference. The biophysical, philosophical, and sociocultural problems associated with environmental categories are exemplified by ‘savanna’ in Africa. Examining environmental categorization is an important point of engagement in critical physical geography because it is: a social process,; explicitly centered on simplification and generalization,; and significant broadly across scientific practice and society.
Duvall, C., Butt, B. and A. Neely. (2018) “The trouble with savanna and other environmental categories, especially in Africa”. In, Handbook of Critical Physical Geography, R. Lave, C. Biermann, and S. Lane, (Eds.) Pages 107-127. Palgrave publishing doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71461-5_6
Towards a More Critical Approach to Environmental Indicators
In recent decades, the use of environmental indicators has become ubiquitous across the public, policy, and scientific spheres. Indicators provide information to guide decisions about environmental changes and leverage political power. In line with this special issue, I engage with how indicators are information dissemination interventions. I demonstrate that the reliance of indicators as key metrics for environmental governance should be treated with caution given that indicators are derived from a process of commensuration. This paper reviews some of the assumptions made in the development of indicators, and describes their use and efficacy in environmental governance. In doing so, I argue that there needs to be more careful attention to how environmental indicators are derived and deployed in place-based setting
Butt, B. (2018) “Environmental Indicators and Governance” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 32: 84-89 doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2018.05.006
Digital Data and Knowledge Making in the Field
Using digital data collection devices in the field is now commonplace among many faculty and students. However, there is less attention to how the use of GPS units, tablets and devices transforms or alters our understanding of the field itself. Does the embrace of the digital simply replace paper, or does it fundamentally transform our ways of knowing? What do we gain and what do we lose as we move from paper to digital in the acts of doing fieldwork? What are the limits of technology in the field and after the field? In this paper, I wrestle with these questions through my own fieldwork experiences through two story‐telling narratives. In the first, I discuss the process of documenting pastoralists’ cattle movement through GPS units, while in the second I relay the process of using tourists as volunteer citizen scientists for wildlife monitoring efforts. Through these examples, I demonstrate a number of key lessons for fieldwork with digital devices and call for a more thorough understanding of the dialectics between devices and users.
Butt, B. (2019) “Digital Data and Knowledge Making in the Field” The Geographical Review doi: 10.1111/gere.12363