Karen Weinbaum

Ph.D. Candidate

Office: 5048 Valley Life Science Building
Phone: (510) 643-1227
Mailing address: 137 Mulford Hall #3114 University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3114

Research Interests

Bushmeat hunterThe concept of “sustainability” remains notoriously difficult to operationalize, although the general consensus includes societal, environmental, and economic considerations. A problem remains in that most practitioners are trained in only one of these disciplines, coloring the way a sustainability problem is assessed and policy recommendations are formulated. Wildlife hunting (“bushmeat hunting”) for human consumption and income is a prominent example of the complex interactions of social, environmental and economic factors, and which has traditionally been examined from a single (conservation) perspective. Wildlife hunting is regarded as the most geographically widespread form of resource extraction in tropical forests. In the Congo Basin of central Africa, millions of people rely on wildlife as a significant source of animal protein and income. Yet at the same time, scientific estimates suggest that as much as 60% of mammalian species are being harvested unsustainably. What this means, in practical terms, is that unsustainable hunting is threatening many of these species with local and global extinctions in the coming decades, which in turn undermines rural people’s food security and livelihoods. The search for sustainable solutions to this problem must inevitably involve a highly interdisciplinary approach.

My research addresses this complexity in the following ways:

  1. An investigation of the methods traditionally used in measuring the sustainability of wildlife harvesting and an evaluation of the underlying assumptions in these models.
  2. The use of socioeconomic surveys in a gradient of rural to urban households for a better understanding of the spatial distribution of wildlife resource use and dependence in rural central African forest communities.
  3. The application of source-sink theory in the spatial modeling of wildlife extraction zones and implications for species conservation and rural livelihoods.