Ep. 71: “No Such a Thing as an ‘Invasive Species’?” feat. Prof. Matt Chew

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Scientific shortcomings and cultural biases

Dubbed a ‘gadfly of invasion biology’ by Scientific American, Matt Chew is known for critiquing ecology’s overreliance on societal metaphors and conservationists’ misapplication of notions like ‘nativeness’. Dr. Chew has a B.S. Environmental Interpretation and an M.S. Range Science (Ecology) from Colorado State University, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Arizona State University. As statewide Natural Resources Planner for Arizona State Parks, he coordinated their Natural Areas Program, researched wildlife issues, and served on interagency committees—one of which also included his future wife, plant ecologist Julie Stromberg, who was a guest in an earlier episode of this podcast.

Currently employed at Arizona State University, Dr. Chew conducts a field course in ‘novel ecosystems,’ lectures in ‘history of biology’ and ‘biology and society’, and works with postgraduate students. He was awarded an Oxford research fellowship in 2014. His articles in “Nature,” “Science” and other publications have been cited in over 200 different journals.

In this episode, I am joined by two co-hosts, Gabe Crawford of the Groundshots Podcast, and Nikki Hill. Nikki has a degree in environmental science and has worked in restoration and agriculture. Currently she invests her energy in wildtending efforts. We co-authored a zine together called, “The Troubles of ‘Invasive’ Plants,” which you can download for free at my blog.

Gabe Crawford was raised on a small homestead outside of Durango, Colorado and started learning about plants from an early age. He got launched on his plant journey by studying with Katrina Blair at the Turtle Lake Refuge in Durango. He moved to Sandpoint, Idaho where he worked with Twin Eagles Wilderness School and Kaniksu Land Trust mentoring kids. Through this, he started naturalist training which opened him up to the world of wild tending, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the ancient and intricate relationships between humans and ecology. Gabe spent time with Finisia Medrano learning about the ancient wild gardens of the west that were and still are tended by indigenous peoples and was taught how to tend these first foods and plant back for future abundance. He collects the seeds of native foods plants, fruit trees, berries and other exotics to plant feral orchards and wild gardens.

In this conversation we take a deep dive into the history of “invasion biology” and reveal its scientific shortcomings and its cultural biases.

Prof. Chew’s profile at Arizona State University

Papers by Prof. Chew at academia.edu

This is a crossover episode with the Groundshots Podcast, which was created by Kelly Moody. Groundshots is an audio project exploring our relationship to ecology through conversations and storytelling: How do we do our work in the modern age, when the urgency of ecological and social collapse feels looming? How do we creatively and whole-heartedly navigate our relationships with one another and the land? These and other questions are explored by Kelly & Gabe with a wide range of guests. Find out more at ofsedgeandsalt.com

Music in episode introduction is “Loop Mix” by Flavio Concini
Their YouTube channel

Tape recorder sound effect courtesy Bertrof (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

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