Clare Wilkinson '17 Bicultural Research & Geomorphologist
Pictured (above): Clare scurrying around one of the braided rivers south of Kaikōura, New Zealand, looking for the cobbles seeded with RFID tags. Can you spot the W&L Geo water bottle?
What sparked your interest in bicultural research in New Zealand?
I became interested in bicultural research when I came across use of anthropomorphized words in scientific literature about the response of different parts of landscapes to big perturbations--such as how hillsides recover from forest fires or deforestation; how rivers recover from large earthquakes, or how ecosystems recover from flooding. Some of my own research questions for my PhD studies were around how landscapes "heal" following major disturbances. I realized that in order for me to truly understand how the landscape I was studying responded to major disturbances, I needed to not only consider the geologic and geomorphic consequences of the event, but also the sociocultural consequences. With the support of my supervisors, we decided that the best people to talk to about the cultural history of the landscapes I was studying were the mana whenua (the traditional and ancestral authorities of the land in Aotearoa New Zealand) of the area. And so, my PhD project became a mixed-methods bicultural research project in which I was weaving both geomorphic techniques and social science to better understand landscape change following major disturbances.
What do you hope to do with your Geoscience education?
I hope to continue working in a bicultural research space, trying to better understand the physical properties of river systems but also honor and prioritize the knowledge and aspirations of the traditional peoples of those rivers and landscapes. Conducting mixed-methods bicultural research has been incredibly rewarding for me in both a professional and personal sense: I have been able to contribute towards promoting other ways of viewing landscapes and in doing so have also gained new ways of connecting to landscapes for myself.
What do you like to do in your free time? What's your favorite hike in Rockbridge?
I love spending my free time outdoors, and since being in New Zealand I have acquired a number of new hobbies. I love mountain biking, trail running, packrafting, swimming, and hiking. My favorite hike in the Rockbridge area is McAfee Knob for sunrise, made even better with pancakes cooked over the camp stove.