Exploring the Human-Snake Encounter in Australia: Creating Pathways to Coexistent and Convivial Ecofutures
The Canberra Snake Tracking Project is seeking an outstanding candidate to complete a PhD research project in the ANU School of Sociology on the social and cultural dimensions of human—snake encounters in urban contexts.
Reptiles are under pressure, with recent predictions contending that 1 in 5 species are facing extinction (Cox et al., 2022). While there are many environmental and ecological factors influencing this troubling statistic, a key one we wish to explore in this interdisciplinary program of research is how urban snakes are culturally represented and socially interacted with in diverse ways. Research shows that snakes are often treated as unbelonging problems when they appear in and around Australian suburban properties. Despite being a criminal offence, many are subject to persecution by people who justify this action on the grounds that the animal has illicitly transgressed a domestic border and presents a threat to the welfare of humans and their companion animals. Other snakes are relocated each year by a growing number of people providing licensed snake catching services but studies show this may have adverse impacts on the translocated snake and generate incongruous effects on the recipient population of snakes and other creatures living in the release site. A minority of people have learned to accept and tolerate these animals in the urban ecosystem, recognising their intrinsic ecological and cultural value.
This socio-ecological project will be principally situated in the Ginninderry community. Positioned on the north-west fringe of Canberra, Ginninderry is the site of a number of new suburbs (and homes) that are founded on conservational and sustainability principles. Due to prime snake habitat being encroached on for urban development and the onset of more extreme weather seasons, it is likely that snake encounters in this area will be a feature of life for residents, as they are in most suburbs of the ‘Bush Capital’. The demographic profile of this area is diverse and multicultural, with many new Australians choosing to reside here. Urban snakes mean different things to these individuals as a consequence of their ethno-cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and personal biographies. Using a mixed method approach, the PhD candidate will explore the geocultural dimensions of these sentiments and relations, and identify the various social and economic factors that shape the dynamics and outcomes of human—snake interactions. From this knowledge, the PhD candidate will devise and design a set of experimental education interventions as a means of reducing adverse interactions with snakes. These practices will also function to improve people’s connection to and conservation of the local area by their learning to appreciate the diverse forms of wildlife they share a landscape with. The PhD candidate will join an established and buoyant interdisciplinary team of scholars, Indigenous knowledge holders and conservation practitioners who will support their project and intellectual development.
To be eligible for this exciting doctoral position, you will have achieved First Class Honours in Sociology (or cognate discipline), or have acquired a Masters level equivalent with suitable grades. While prospective candidates will need to attain an Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) Stipend Scholarship in a competitive process, an additional top-up scholarship of $9,000 AUD per annum will be added to their stipend to support this study.
Applications need to be made by 31 August 2023 if you are an International Student and 31 October 2023 if you are a Domestic Student. Please send enquires and expressions of interest in the first instance to:
Associate Professor Gavin Smith
Head, ANU School of Sociology
Project Leader, Canberra Snake Tracking Project
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