After the endless months of COVID enforced routine, a trip to the IUCN World Congress in Marseille felt like quite an adventure. The IUCN congress is the world’s largest conservation event, attended by thousands of practitioners, researchers and policy people working on conservation. But as things turned out, the day in Marseille was only the beginning…
During the week from 30 August to 5 September, the Corridor Talk team convened in the Pyrenean region of southwest France, more specifically the pleasant spa town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre, for a series of half-day field trips and business meetings. The trips, to the neighbouring mountain areas of Cauterets and Lac d’Estaing, involved short hikes (and inclement weather!), the latter accompanied by senior Pyrenees National Park ranger Etienne Farand, who recounted stories of regular bear attacks in the region, and who – echoing the figures given by Marco Heurich for Bavarian Forest NP last year – explained the pressures being put on the National Park by increased visitor numbers during the pandemic, and by the emergence – welcome in other ways – of new demographics for tourism in the region, at least some of the visitors associated with which had never been to a national park before.
The German Association for Postcolonial Studies (GAPS) is one of the liveliest around, and I’ve been lucky enough to participate in several of their conferences. The latest of these (May 2021), hosted by the University of Oldenburg, focused on the relationship between science, culture, and postcolonial narratives. Since COVID appeared on the scene, I’ve attended several online conferences, always with a certain sense of trepidation. How should we gauge audiences we can’t see? And how, when our turn comes to present, should we deal with questions, half-formulated in the first place, that suddenly appear – and that demand equally instant responses – in the chat?
On 22 and 23 June, Corridor Talk’s Eveline de Smalen and Katie Ritson co-convened a workshop on literature, education and the Wadden Sea, in which academics in the fields of literature, history and cultural geography and practitioners working in nature conservation and visitor centres came together to discuss ways in which they can learn from, and use each other’s work in their education practices to integrate ideas from nature conservation in literature education and vice versa. The workshop kicked off on 22 June with short introductions to Corridor Talk and the workshop objectives by co-conveners Eveline and Katie (both RCC), after which each participant introduced themselves with the aid of an object they brought to the workshop.
Now that we are emerging from COVID19-enforced hibernation, fieldwork is continuing on Work Package 2 – Immersions – in the Pyrénées.
Things are moving slowly of course, and Jonathan has been staying safely outside and well ventilated, but the weather has been favourable as we listen in and learn along some participant led ‘transect walks’. These walks take us on a gradient of landscape change from those more human-influenced areas to the wilder end of things, the places where our non-human animals choose to spend the majority of their time. Some images below from a recent walk in April show extracts from the 360 video footage captured for documentary purposes during these walks, as we move from the valley floor up into the middle mountains, passing through an old-growth forest area on the way.
Katie was a speaker in a seminar entitled “Vanishing Coasts” as part of a three-part series Coastal Connections convened by an international team for the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. The seminar session, which took place in February, was put together by Joana Gaspar de Freitas, PI of the ERC-funded project DUNES – Sea, Sand, People and featured coastal research on four continents. A short blog post outlining the research covered in this wide-ranging seminar and discussion can be found here.
Dear Corridor Talk colleagues: This month I made it to the Wadden Sea coast for the first time since our project began! It felt unreal to be standing on the mudflats – experiencing the physical landscape for the first time in well over a year. I picked up this postcard and thought of you, and now I’m typing these words into my computer, but I’m not sure how well they capture what I want to share.
On 22 March we had a lively and exciting discussion with Luděk Brož and Laura Kuen, who are part of the BOAR ERC project “Veterinarization of Europe? Hunting for Wild Boar Futures in the Time of African Swine Fever,” based at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. The parts of our respective projects that deal with species mobility and boundaries have a lot of potential for productive dialogue and cooperation, and we are looking forward to talking more in the near future.
The wild boar has interfaces with all of the Corridor Talk field sites, but is particularly closely linked to hunting practices in the Bavarian Forest National Park and Šumava National Park, and the ethnographic methodologies proposed by BOAR have similarities to those developed by Jon and George in the Pyrénées. So besides the happy alliterative trio of bears, birds, and bark beetles, we expect to have some boar making an appearance in Corridor Talk in the future too.
In a new article for Arcadia: Explorations in Environmental History, Eveline de Smalen writes about poetry and nature conservation in the Wadden Sea. The history of conservation in the Wadden Sea reserves a starring role for birds. Birds were important for its conception, central to its policies today and contribute to its success as a protected area, but they can also help us think about nature reserves conceptually and critically assess their role in society. Nature reserves are often considered static, unchanging and ahistorical places. This article provides a reading of Ed Leeflang’s poem “The Sanderling” to show how literature about birds can help us think about nature reserves as historical places shaped by a multitude of more-than-human agencies, and marked by loss.