Dr. Erica Oberndorfer
Labrador Institute of Memorial University
P. O. Box 490, Station B
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
Photo credit: Henry Jacque
Room 2, 169 Hamilton River Road
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
Phone: 1(709) 896-2854
(Hons). B.A. & Sci., McMaster University, 2000
M.Sc., Biology, Saint Mary’s University, 2006
Thesis: Plant, macrolichen and moss community structure and species richness in the coastal barrens of Nova Scotia
Ph.D, Geography, Carleton University, 2016
Dissertation: The shared stories of people and plants: Cultural and ecological relationships between people and plants in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada)
I have a life-long interest in and love for plants. Much of my earlier education and work has focused on the ecology of plant communities, and the distribution of plants in eastern Canada. Gradually, I have come to appreciate the complex relationships between people and plants, and the way that we shape each other’s lives.
Much of my current work is with plant mentors in Makkovik, learning about the cultural importance of plants to Makkovimiut. Our work focuses on individual plants, but also on the importance of understanding “plants in practice” – how plants support a larger web of cultural practices, which in turn support plants.
Through research in plant ecology, we have also learned a great deal about the role of people in shaping plant communities and soils at family places and fishing places near Makkovik. Plants and soils are the ecological footprints of people in the landscape, and are a living reminder of the Inuit Land Use and Occupancy Study (1977) assertion that “Our footprints are everywhere”. Northern landscapes are deeply cultural, and it is important to understand the contributions of both biological processes and cultural practices to their biodiversity.
My focus as the 2017 Labrador Institute Post-doctoral fellow is the development of the Makkovik Plant Book, which is a community priority stemming from our ongoing work, and is supported through the Tradition & Transition partnership between Memorial University and Nunatsiavut Government. I also continue to work on the genealogy of rhubarbs in Labrador, to better understand how this beloved plant is intertwined with the travels and connections of families.
I believe interdisciplinary approaches to learning help us more carefully consider relationships in the world around us. As a non-Indigenous learner, I try to look to Indigenous methodologies for guidance on how to keep relationships and reciprocity at the heart of research. I am grateful to the many people and plants whose knowledge enriches my learning.
Selected publications and presentations
Oberndorfer, E., Winters, N., Gear, C., Broomfield, T., Ljubicic, L., and J. Lundholm. 2016. Plants in a “sea of relationships”: Networks of plants and fishing in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). Manuscript submitted to Journal of Ethnobiology.
Oberndorfer, E. 2016. People and plants in Nunatsiavut: Reflections on learning and teaching. Invited lecture, Inuit Bachelor of Education class, Labrador Institute, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, 25 Mar.
Oberndorfer, E., Broomfield, T., Gear, C., Lundholm, J., and G. Ljubicic. 2016. The Big but Not Empty Land: Ecological footprints of fishing practices near the Inuit Community of Makkovik (Nunatsiavut, Canada). The 39th Annual Conference of the Society of Ethnobiology, Tucson, 16-19 Mar.
Oberndorfer, E. 2016. Stories plants and soils tell about people. Makkovik Elders’ dinner presentation, Makkovik, 28 Jan.
Oberndorfer, E., Gear, C., Ljubicic, G., and J. Lundholm, J. 2015. “Without plants, we wouldn’t be the same unique people”: A look at the broader importance of plants in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). The 38th Annual Conference of the Society of Ethnobiology, Santa Barbara, 6-9 May.
Oberndorfer, E. 2015. Makkovik Plant Stories. Community hall presentation, Makkovik, 14 Aug.
Oberndorfer, E., Gear, C., Ljubicic, G., Lundholm, J., and S. Andersen. 2014. “I’d like to be able to pass that on”: The cultural and ecological importance of plant management systems in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut. Arctic Change Conference, Ottawa, 10 Dec.
Oberndorfer, E. 2014. The shared stories of people and plants: Relationships between people and plants in Labrador. Invited lecture for Torngat Secretariat, Labrador Institute, Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 6 Aug.
Oberndorfer, E. 2014. The shared stories of people and plants: Relationships between people and plants in Labrador. Invited lecture, Labrador Interpretation Centre, North West River, 9 July.
Oberndorfer, E. 2014. Makkovik to Bhutan. Community hall presentation and film, Makkovik, 17 July.
Oberndorfer, E., Gear, C., Ljubicic, G., Lundholm, J., and S. Andersen. 2014. The shared stories of people and plants: Cultural and ecological relationships between people and plants in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). 14th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology, Bumthang, Bhutan, 2 Jun.
Oberndorfer, E., Gear, C., Ljubicic, G., Lundholm, J., and S. Andersen. 2013. The shared stories of people and plants: Working towards accountable research relationships in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut. ArcticNet Conference, Halifax, 11 Dec.
Oberndorfer, E., and J. Lundholm. 2009. Species richness, abundance, rarity and environmental gradients in coastal barren vegetation. Biodiversity and Conservation 18(6):1523-1553.
Oberndorfer, E., Lundholm, J., Bass, B., Coffman, R., Doshi, H., Dunnett, N., Gaffin S., Köhler, M., Liu, K., and B. Rowe. 2007. Green roofs as urban ecosystems: ecological structures, functions and services. BioScience, 57(10):823-832.
Graduate Research and Innovative Thinking (GRIT) Award, Carleton University (2015)
Canadian Northern Studies Trust, Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship (2014)
Torrance Research Scholarship in Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University (2013)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph-Armand Bombardier Doctoral Scholarship (2012)
Carleton University Alumnus Graduate Scholarship in Geography and Environmental Studies (2011)
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Ground Search and Rescue Team (2012-present)
Canadian Wildlife Service breeding bird surveyor (2011-present)