For co-existence, (bio)diversity and justice in conservation

Designing landscape maps for CONVIVA, part 1 – Lieksa, Finland

How do you go about designing landscape maps for the CONVIVA project’s diverse research locations? Anne Leroy, Master’s student in landscape studies, shares part 1 of her memorable adventure here, introducing her work on landscapes and conservation, and her fieldwork in Lieksa, Finland (please find part 2 on map-making here).

“During my fourth year of study, I completed an Erasmus exchange to Wageningen University, the Netherlands. There I developed a genuine interest in the relationship people have with their land, the mechanisms of place-making and the role of art in the latter. Quite distinct from my background in landscape engineering at Agro Institute, Angers, France! Looking for an internship, I came across the Dutch CONVIVA – convivial conservation research team. The objectives were twofold: writing a paper supported by the team and the design of maps in exchange. Quickly, thanks to Kate Massarella as an inspiring supervisor, the spontaneity of the team made me feel part of the project and part of the broader CONVIVA network. The adventure began.

For the study, I wanted to explore the potential role of landscape mapping, my expertise, in conservation debates. Here we understand landscape as both the physical object, on the one hand, and the source of memories, feelings, daily concerns on the other hand. Landscape is something that has different meanings depending on the person, or group experiencing it. Then why couldn’t it be a medium to reconcile the needs of wolf conservation and locals’ expectations of their landscape?

Lieksa, Finland

Representing nature spirits is at the heart of Eva Ryynänen’s work

To experience this in practice, Lieksa in the eastern part of Finland was chosen to be the fieldwork location. Thanks to Sanna Komi, part of the CONVIVA team at the University of Helsinki, the idea was born to do research with people about their landscape, instead of doing research on them. I chose to compare people’s engagement with landscape to their opinion on wolves. The combination of walks, both alone and with locals, and interviews around a map helped me draw a picture of Lieksa in all its diversity in a short period of time.

Forests in Finland have their own spirit. Several people I met held the forest in high esteem, all in their own ways. While one person expresses it by observing and being part of the ecosystem, another finds communion with nature in following the law of predation fearlessly. Both displayed knowledge of their own and opinions that call for consideration. The local religious community’s trust and acceptance were also immensely beneficial to my study. I have been struck by their willingness to share memories, private aspects of their lives and sensitive events with me. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my interpreter Ali, who supported me remarkably during those meetings.

It sometimes takes a long trip from home to discover that everywhere on this planet, we are humans who are able to connect. People are capable of benevolence for each other regardless of background.

“Remember I am a hunter, but I am also a dad », he said affectionately.”

You can contact Anne Leroy at aleroy<dot>paysage<at>gmail<dot>com. Please read part two of her blog on map-making here.