Dr. Karen Park, assistant professor of linguistics, had been awarded a Global Academic Partnership (GAP) grant for "Integrating Scholarship and Practice Towards a Global Model of Biocultural Conservation." Along with collaborators at the University of Oxford, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and BirdLife International, Park studies how people across diverse language backgrounds engage with the natural world through naming, metaphor, and myth. She and her research team are applying this research to the hypothesis that linguistic diversity has the potential to protect biodiversity and are investigating the mutual benefits of uniting linguistic and biological conservation. (To learn more about how language encodes our knowledge of the natural world, watch Park's "Musings from Cloud Cuckoo Land.")
GAP funds will support a series of related language documentation workshops, graduate student exchanges, and public outreach events beginning in Fall 2018. The centerpiece will be a Biocultural Diversity Conference to take place at Pitt in September 2019 to explore the intersections of linguistic and biological diversity, culture, and conservation practice. This exciting project complements Park's other research on language change and endangerment in the Pacific and theoretical approaches to structure and meaning in language. In a similar vein, another ongoing GAP project on refugees as an emerging frontier of humanitarian governance led by Dr. Heath Cabot is also entering its second year as part of a GSC initiative on migration.