Thursday, August 21, 2014

Voodoo forests of Benin

Inside a sacred forest near Allada

Fishing in the bay, Cotonou
Bonjour! Just wrapped up an exploratory expedition to the West African nations of Benin & Togo, where I have been laying the groundwork for both research and study abroad opportunities with local contacts along with colleagues from Michigan State University. We spent much of our time with local voodoo practitioners learning about the sacred forests spread throughout this part of the world, with a focus on the interactions among their spiritual practices, stewardship of the sacred forests, and the biological diversity within and around the forests. My colleagues and I are especially interested in exploring the social and scientific issues that form the backdrop for these interactions. For my part, I'm interested in how arthropod diversity both within and around sacred forests may play a role in both the spiritual and the scientific (conservation) aspects of this interplay. For instance, forest stewardship may bolster ecosystem services such as pollination and biological control in nearby agricultural fields. I'm looking forward to setting up some experiments with colleagues at the university in Abomey-Calavi (Cotonou) to test some hypotheses related to these and other interchanges - as well as creating opportunities for UW Tacoma students to explore the myriad rich cultural and scientific aspects of life and conservation in West Africa.
Mono river, border between Benin & Togo

Market in Ouidah