BNRC Spotlight: Sophie Haines

Sophie Haines

BRNC Spotlight is a blog feature from the Belize National Research Conference. In this segment, we interview Dr. Sophie Haines.

Sophie Haines is an anthropologist of development, environment, science & technology, based at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Her research explores knowledge practices, environmental perceptions, and decision-making in contexts of social and ecological change. Her projects to date have focused on highway planning and construction; the production and application of weather and climate forecasts; and the negotiation of environmental knowledge in watershed assessments and interventions.

What research project are you engaged in?

My most recent project is Envisioning emergent environments: Negotiating Science & Resource Management in Rural Communities. Previous projects include “The usability of forecasts for resource and hazard management” and “An ecology of politics: Environment, sociality and development in southern Belize“.

What would you say is the most informative aspect of your research?

My most recent project has examined how rural residents and scientists negotiate scientific and situated knowledges in watershed management initiatives. It also seeks to understand these findings in relation to broader policy shifts informed by global frameworks of climate adaptation and water resources management, and to colonial legacies of resource distribution and politics of knowledge. As an anthropologist, I focus on how these shifts play out in people’s everyday lives — I hope that my research helps to illuminate local and global dynamics that underpin resource decision-making, and that it can contribute to work ongoing within Belize that seeks to bring diverse perspectives and knowledges to bear on environmental policies and practices.

Why did you choose to research this particular field or topic?

My current work comes out of a long-term engagement with topics of social and environmental change in Belize. Having started from an interest in how infrastructure development (such as highway construction) interacts with perceptions of environment, land rights debates and notions of community, I have been so fortunate to meet a wide variety of groups and individuals who are very knowledgeable about the crucial and diverse roles of water and watersheds. Through these relationships, I have becoming increasingly interested in how environmental health and human health overlap.

What has been the greatest source of insight towards answering your research questions?

The opportunity to speak with and learn from so many people and communities over the years. For example, spending time with rural residents and community organisations in southern Belize has really brought home how deeply human health and environmental health are entangled in water management debates and water practices.

How do you see your research contributing to academia and/or policy making?

In terms of practical contributions, I hope that my research (including written outputs but also activities such as meetings and workshops) could help increase clarity in negotiations between citizens, NGOs and governments as they tackle complicated debates over environmental values and resource distribution. In the academic arena I hope to contribute to scholarly debates about human-environment relationships in development, sustainability and environmental futures, highlighting the role of people and communities and the many kinds of expertise they bring to the table

What is the benefit of participating in the Belize National Research Conference?  

The BNRC is a wonderful opportunity to communicate and stay connected with Belizean and other colleagues working on related projects (and very different ones!); to learn from each other and find opportunities to collaborate in future. I appreciate the chance to seek feedback on my preliminary research results and discuss their implications and appropriate next steps. I have particularly enjoyed meeting and working with students and staff at UB and ISCR. As well as sharing the content and findings of our work, I think BNRC is a fruitful venue for collaboration and reflection on the context, conduct, and ethics of diverse types of research in Belize.