Postdoctoral Fellow: Siobhan Maderson

Siobhan MadersonResearch Topic: High-TEK: Using beekeepers’ environmental knowledge to enhance sustainable agriculture and land management
Research Pathway: Human Geography
Host Institution: Aberystwyth

In the current era of climate change, environmental breakdown, and post-Brexit plans for radical restructuring of UK agriculture and land management, the plight of pollinators is but one of many challenges to be addressed. Recent years have seen an international response to pollinator decline, with many countries adopting policies which acknowledge beekeepers as key stakeholders in monitoring, and reversing, pollinator decline. Using interviews, participant observation and archival investigation, my doctoral research examined the traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) of long-term beekeepers, which spanned both tacit and scientific understanding. My PhD findings include:

  • Beekeepers’ unique knowledge is highly relevant to developing and monitoring policies on biodiversity and food security.
  • Currently, their knowledge is not achieving its environmentally transformative potential.
  • There is a wider global history of tacit knowledge and TEK being undervalued by policy-makers and the scientific community
  • TEK can support environmental monitoring and management.

This fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to communicate my PhD findings in academic, educational and policy contexts, thus maximising my research impact at this key time of reappraisal of current land management approaches. During the fellowship, I will work with interdisciplinary scholars at the Stockholm Resilience Centre who study and use TEK to support sustainability. TEK can broaden our understanding of environmental and social factors that can ultimately increase our resilience to environmental challenges.

Effectively engaging with beekeepers’ knowledge requires connecting diverse forms of environmental knowledge, and an interdisciplinary understanding of factors affecting pollinators and the wider environment. Yet these issues are not only relevant to beekeepers’ knowledge. The question of what counts as expertise is important politically and environmentally. As the global community struggles to address challenges to our food systems, and our environment, developing more inclusive methods of engaging with diverse knowledge and communities will be crucial to successfully navigating the 21st century.

Twitter: @SiobhanMaderson