UC Science Radio Season 2: Episode 5

Clare Wilkinson: Geomorphology and mātauranga Māori 

clare wilkinson uc science radio

When a geologist looks at the impact of an earthquake, the natural inclination is to focus on landscape change. But how do these events impact people, and how can Indigenous knowledge inform our response?

When Clare Wilkinson started her PhD, her project was strictly within geology and geomorphology, but her research into how Kaikoura rivers responded to the 2016 earthquake grew her appreciation of the event’s cultural impact and the valuable intersection of mātauranga Māori and western science.

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In this episode

0.52 when I first arrived to UC, my project was very strictly within geology and geomorphology.

1.39 I felt like if I was going to be learning about how these landscapes were healing, I needed to consider not just the physical processes but also the way the people in the landscapes were also healing.

1.58 who would be better to talk than Māori, the people who know these landscapes so well and have such a long, traditional knowledge of these landscapes

3.50 major alterations to landscapes aren't just, you know, earthquakes, but they’re deforestation, it's flooding, it's tsunami, a whole web of physical processes, but also cultural processes

4.40 It's not my job to produce mātauranga Māori, in fact I can't. What I can do is create space for it alongside my science.

4.51 There has to be a recognition that you're not trying to force one knowledge system into the other.

5.49 They can occupy independent strains, but throughout the research process, they come together, they inform each other, you use one another to check in

9.56 the sea life there, they were already struggling from the uplift from the earthquake, and then with all the river sedimentation clouding over their environments, it has implications for the productivity of those ecosystems.

11.03 Sitting out on the seaside talking about the mountains behind us and the rivers behind us and the moana, the sea, in front of us. It made me reflect on how I think about the world around me and what I want my research and my science to deliver.

11.31 I would love for more Earth surface scientists to consider how their work might be of interest to, of relevance to, of benefit to indigenous communities.

Read a transcript of the full interview.

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Meet our speakers

clare wilkinson portrait

Clare Wilkinson

Coming from Vermont, USA, Clare’s PhD research investigates how changing landscapes “heal” following natural disasters with a unique bicultural perspective. Using both traditional earth science and oral histories from the local iwi, Clare has studied sediment flow through river systems to see how the landscape has changed physically and culturally after major natural events.

"Carving a space for myself in mixed-method bicultural research space has been the most rewarding aspect of my degree so far."

Read more: Clare's UC journey

Molly Magid

Molly Magid

Molly Magid is an MSc student at UC. A recent graduate of Brown University, Molly is working on research in conservation genomics with Associate Professor Tammy Steeves from the School of Biological Sciences. Molly is passionate about finding ways to communicate science to the public in a clear, novel, and engaging ways. Most recently, Molly worked as the lead student producer on the podcast Possibly, which answers listener's questions about sustainability using relevant science research.