“An Epic Journey”; The importance of story for long-distance migratory species conservation

Authors: Jenny Isaacs*, Rutgers University
Topics: Animal Geographies, Cultural and Political Ecology, Cultural Geography
Keywords: conservation, political ecology, multispecies, story, animal geography, encounter, bird, environmental humanities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Embassy Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Most people will never see the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa). This shorebird lives at the margins, frequenting extreme environments that most humans avoid. Knots are rare and their long-distance migrations take them elsewhere for most of the year. They are not colorful, charismatic, or large; rather they are small, dull in color, and skittish. They don't sing. They don't provide any valuable ecosystem service. For such reasons, shorebird conservationists face the difficult task of selling to residents the protection of a lackluster animal that is often absent or is actively avoiding contact. What is critical for red knot conservation success is their compelling story of migration across 20,000 miles annually between both ends of the western hemisphere. The incredible story of rufa migration – described by Deborah Cramer as “epic” in her award-winning book about red knots -- motivates public support, the creation of reserve sites and legal protections, crosscultural exchange, behavior and land use changes. This paper draws on discourse analysis, close reading, and participant observation to explain how story is wielded by shorebird conservation professionals to make red knot experiences visible and meaningful to the public, with material, uneven impacts across the range. Examining the terms and technologies of more-than-human story-telling, it explains how the effective/affective sharing of shorebird stories is essential for their survival and recovery, considering implications for other species’ conservation.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login