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(Un)tangling the Net, Tackling the Scales and Learning to Fish: An Interdisciplinary Study in Indonesian Borneo

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posted on 15.01.2018, 12:25 by Sara Anne Thornton
In the face of continued environmental degradation worldwide, interdisciplinary research is needed to better understand and find practical solutions to this degradation and to better understand the complicated relationships between humans and nonhumans (the ‘environment’). However, interdisciplinary research is often challenging due to problems of integrating different stakeholder concerns (e.g. government and local communities) and bridging academic disciplines. I propose a new approach – the Interdisciplinary Assemblage Approach (IAA) – which I use to study human, fish and spirit communities in the Sabangau (Indonesian Borneo), and explore relationships between these communities and ‘environmental’ aspects such as river depth and seasons. This case study was chosen due to the important tropical peat-swamp forest habitat in the area, the understudied nature of the fish assemblages in this habitat, and the understudied dependence of human communities on fishing around the forest and other peatlands across Sabangau. I conducted the first in-depth fish surveys in the Sabangau River and Forest, along with surveys in two human communities (Kereng Bangkirai and Taruna Jaya). Using results from these, I discuss how human-nonhuman relationships lead to Sabangau being an overfished and fire-prone area, showing both resilient and non-resilient characteristics. Taking the progressive interdisciplinary and biocultural approach to conservation, the IAA can also challenge dichotomies and hierarchies that are often imposed between different knowledge systems (‘local’ versus ‘scientific’ knowledge) and academic disciplines (‘social’ and ‘natural’ sciences). Ultimately, the project provides recommendations for future research and management actions, such as the impacts of canal damming and fish pond building on fish populations, to improve fish and fisher wellbeing and recommendations and considerations that will be useful for future peatland restoration projects. It evaluates the IAA, its use as a framework for interdisciplinary research along with its wider applicability for conserving environments that so many humans and nonhumans depend on.



Page, Susan; Upton, Caroline; Harrison, Mark

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Department of Geography

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University of Leicester

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