|Collecting Soil Samples from an Acorus site (photo taken by Suzanne Greenlaw)|
My name is Michelle Joy Baumflek. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I am currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian Program at Cornell University. My PhD research at Cornell University focuses on incorporating biocultural diversity into forest management, and is based on the partnerships I developed in Maine over the last 6 years. I am focused on indigenous stewardship of 'wild' plants, and efforts to increase access to species that are culturally important for Maliseet and Mi'kmaq communities in Maine and as well as New Brunswick. Three terms that describe my work are: plant stewardship, access and health.
Because my research explores sociocultural and ecological aspects of human-plant relations, I draw on theoretical frameworks from several disciplines including ethnobotany, geography, anthropology and plant ecology. I employ a suite of mixed methods to answer my research questions: interviews, focus groups, participant observation, archival research, GIS mapping, habitat and social suitability modeling, vegetation sampling and herbarium research.
Ethnobiology is the natural culmination of my educational and life experiences. Growing up in Brooklyn, for as long as I can remember, all I wanted to do was get out of the city. My mother fed my curiosity about nature with frequent trips to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the NY Aquarium, and the undeveloped beaches near our house. I pursued a BS degree in Environmental Forest Biology, thinking that I would become a wildlife biologist. After graduating, I got to have several amazing field jobs, but I quickly realized that I was more fascinated by the plants I found in the landscape than the animals I was there to study. I became especially interested in how people use plants and began to expand my personal experiences with food foraging, which is now one of my passions!
|The Mattawamkeag River, Maine|
|My trusty field assistant|
My immediate goal is to complete my dissertation this summer. After that, I am looking forward to building on my experiences with wild food and health systems in creative ways that are helpful to people and plants!
I am also passionate about teaching, and hope to continue to create curricular materials and courses related to ethnobiology and environmental conservation. I recently designed and taught a class called 'Culture and Ecology of Native American Food Systems' here at Cornell. I would like to continue to develop classes that span disciplinary boundaries to engage students with diverse interests.