Urban backyard refuges - sharing space with the more-than-human community

Authors: Laurel Ladwig*, University of New Mexico
Topics: Environmental Perception, Animal Geographies
Keywords: Citizen Science, More-Than-Human Geography, Critical Physical Geography, Biodiversity Conservation, Urban Habitat
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 4:55 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Plaza Court 2, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the urban setting, biodiversity conservation requires redesigning anthropogenic habitats for both human and non-human use. Intentionally creating spaces humans and wildlife can share requires asking questions that consider approaches from multiple disciplines, avoiding framing the environment as a simple backdrop for human activities. Critical Physical Geography (CPG) combines critical human and physical geography to bring multiple knowledges into conversation, making complex realities visible while recognizing that community ethics grounded in place and everyday practice shape the human-environment relationship. Scholarship in More-Than-Human (MTH) Geography has gone beyond an anthropocentric framing to acknowledge humans’ membership in the multispecies community. This project works to include these disciplines in a framework that explores entanglements to reconcile the needs of all in our community.

Sharing familiar spaces creates opportunities for developing ethical relationships between humans, non-humans, and natural systems. Wildlife gardening provides wildlife with space and resources for adapting to a changing world by creating habitat in our residential and community areas. Proponents believe it will encourage a shift in ethics by actively enlarging urban residents’ sense of community to include wild neighbors.

This paper presents findings of a study evaluating community interest in a citizen science program centered on establishing a mosaic of backyard habitat patches throughout the Albuquerque area. Over 500 people responded to a standardized survey and engaged with the ideas of actively considering the needs of the more-than-human community. The paper presents results and discusses implications for recruiting urban residents to participate in wildlife gardening and other citizen science projects.

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