Urban Agriculture: Biodiversity and Food Security Research

Urban Gardener Research Recruitment Poster

Prospective study collaborators and the curious,

Hello and welcome!

I’m James Moore and I’m a Master’s student at Washington State University-Vancouver in the Urban Ecosystems and Agroecology Lab with Dr. Jahi Chappell.  My email address is james.moore1@email.wsu.edu

This post details how I will be conducting my research on urban agriculture in Portland, Oregon and will serve as a place for people to come find out more and how you can be a part of it.

What am I doing?

For my Master’s thesis I want to identify what effects urban agriculture (backyard and community gardening) has on biodiversity (or the number and types of organisms living there) and food security (or what you eat, how much you eat and what that food means to you, among other things), and to collaborate with gardeners to tell their story about gardening and how it has influenced different aspects of their life.  If we can identify forms of urban agriculture that preserve or enhance biodiversity and food security then we are half way to making cities a better place to live.

How you can get involved:

First and foremost I am looking for gardeners that live and garden in Portland, Oregon that would be willing to collaborate with me as I research urban agriculture.  Specifically, I’m looking for gardeners to help me write their experience with urban agriculture (you remain completely anonymous) and to allow my research group (3-4 people) to sample insects in their garden.

Your time commitment is:

~1 hour to conduct an interview (this part can vary and depends on how much you want to share) and the insect sampling.

Additional commitments:

The insect sampling requires small bowls to be left in the ground for 3 days (you don’t have to do anything with them) after which I will come and collect them and fill in the holes.  So if we met for the interview and insect sampling on a Wednesday I would need to come back on Saturday to collect the bowls.

Additional time might be necessary to clarify points from the interview and to share the draft of your story with you to get your final approval. I want what I write to reflect your thoughts and feelings as much as possible.

And that is pretty much all that’s requested of study collaborators!  Interested in participating?  Email me at james.moore1@email.wsu.edu

Okay, so that’s what I’m doing, why, and how you can get involved.  Curious about exactly how I’ll be doing everything, read on!

Gardener Stories:

In order to make this project truly collaborative I want to give gardeners a chance to share just what gardening means to them.  In order to do that I will conduct an interview that takes about 1 hour depending on how much information you share.  There are some census style questions to use as variables to explain differences between gardeners (such as income level, people living in the house, occupation, etc.) but mostly the questions will consist of prompts to get you talking about your garden.  Why do you garden?  What benefits do you experience gardening?  Does gardening improve your diet?  What animals do you notice in and around your garden?  I will record the interview, with permission (the gardener can choose to not answer any question and to end the interview at any time), so I can focus on the discussion and not on taking notes and also so I can get your words verbatim to avoid paraphrasing.  Once the interview is complete I will spend some time writing our interview into a story, and share that story with you.  I want you to have the opportunity to verify that the story does reflect you, not my impression of you, and will make changes based on your input.  This gives you a chance to share your experience with a wide audience!  Again, you remain completely anonymous (for ethical reasons) but I’m sure your story will be plenty telling.

Insect Sampling:

I’m actually sampling more than just insects, such as spiders and other arthropods, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll call it insect sampling. Generally, insect sampling will occur at the same time as the interview in order to minimize the time you need to dedicate to having me at your home.   The sampling process is pretty simple and is usually left to my undergraduate assistants.  There are 2 different parts to the insect sampling, 1 is completed during our visit and the other is completed over the course of 3 days (all on its own) after which I will return to collect the samples.  The first part is called tuna baiting, we actually use a tiny bit of tuna and crumbled cookies (just a pinch of each) as a bait to attract ants.  After 30 minutes of letting the bait sit we collect the ants that are visiting the baits and the remnants of the bait.

The second part of the insect sampling is called pitfall trapping.  Small bowls (smaller than the one you eat cereal out of!) are buried in the garden at specific intervals and partially filled with salt water.  The bowls sit with the lip flush to the ground and a plate is set above to prevent rain and flying insects from getting inside.  The bowls stay there for 3 days and during that time non-flying insects fall inside.  On the 3rd day I come and collect the bowls and fill in the holes we made.

Look at that slacker!
Look at that slacker!

This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly, check back in for news relating to my research and pictures of my team at work!

Working hard!
Working hard!
This entry was posted in Basic & Applied Ecology, Biodiversity, Urban agriculture/food farming/gardening, Urban Ecology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Urban Agriculture: Biodiversity and Food Security Research

  1. Andrea Ku says:

    Hi
    I have just stumbled upon you on Twitter via my ‘work’ and ‘pleasure’ account that is B is for Biodiversity! I have just completed my MA in landscape architecture at Leeds Met Uni (UK). My theme was exploring the attitudes and awareness of urban biodiversity in Liverpool (also UK!). I worked with an urban community garden and allotment project to research live local people and their gardens.

    As I have had a lot of help from academics for my MA I thought I would put back in some of what I have learnt and still continuing to do so. I completed the MA in November last year and was awarded a distinction that I was very pleased with!

    If you would like any input from me then please drop me a line. Anything biodiversity and urban related that could potentially help everything and everyone in a small area is all good in my book!

    If you’re all ok without any more research then I hope it all goes well.

    Good luck!

    Andrea

  2. auejames says:

    Andrea

    Congratulations on completing your MA and your distinction! It’s always great to hear from other researchers working on similar projects!

    As a matter of fact it would be great to see your results and get your input on working with urban gardeners. Did you conduct interviews? Any insights you could provide on how to conduct the interviews would be great!

    Thanks for taking the time to respond!

    James

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s