The Science Underground: In conversation with Dr. Patricia Kaishian & So Sinopoulos-Lloyd

Dr Patricia Kaishian and So Sinopoulos-Lloyd discuss their backgrounds in environmental education, wildlife tracking and theology with a focus on meaning and the more than human, blending social and natural sciences.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Welcome everybody. So good to have you here at our Queer Ecology Webinar. My name is Priya Subberwal, I will be facilitating today's discussion. I am the Graphic Designer at Advaya. I also host our Monthly Spiritual Ecology Study Club. I'm really looking forward to diving into this session today. This is in anticipation of our upcoming course Queer Ecology hosted by Patty Kaishian. I think that's all I'll say for now. And I'll let our two guests of honour introduce themselves. If either of you would like to chime in, maybe Patty, if you'd like to go first and introduce yourself, however you so choose.

Patricia Kaishian: Hi, everyone. Hey, I'm really happy to be here and have this conversation with Priya. This is an an anticipation of the course that I'm teaching with Advaya on Queer Ecology. So hopefully some of you are maybe thinking of attending or maybe you might feel moved to attend following this conversation. But essentially, I guess I can say a little bit about myself, I am a mycologist. I am basically a scientist who studies fungi. And specifically within that I'm interested in fungal biodiversity, taxonomy, fungal evolution and symbiosis. I do a lot of work on fungi that associate with insects as Ecto Bionz and as parasites. And in general, I'm very interested in fungal conservation, and essentially, trying to advance this kind of idea that fungi need to be studied and protected and treated, you know, at least with the same care and consideration as other organisms, as their history of in science has not been that way. Right? They've been very neglected. Although in the last few years, we've seen quite a change in public interest in mycology. So that's interesting to me, as someone who's been studying mycology for 15 years. So maybe we can get a little bit into the complications that surround mainstream gaze and the ways in which the risks and perils I think that kind of come with popularity of of a being right. But in general, I also am a scholar of philosophy of science, and queer theory, it probably goes without saying, a queer person, myself. And I have found throughout my life and my scholarship that my queerness and my sort of relationship with, with fungi were very, like mutually reinforcing. And I learned a lot about fungi through my own experience with queerness. And about my own experience with queerness through fungi. So these things were sort of mutually reinforcing. And so I've been interested in, in how the socio political landscape informs science in the production of knowledge, and how the work of scientists, you know, however, we may strive for objectivity is always sort of playing out in a landscape that is subjective. So I'm very interested in how that materially impacts knowledge. I like teaching. I'm also a professor at the Bard Prison initiative. So I teach biology classes in a maximum security prison. And I'm also a scientist at the New York State Museum in Albany. So yeah, I'm interested in science education in science communication, as well. So yeah, maybe I'll pass it off to So for now.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: Thank you. Yeah, I've just become, yeah, like enamoured of your work through hearing about you from my spouse Pienaar and reading about your work. And so I just am honoured to be in this discussion with you. And I'm also really excited about the convergence of talking about, like mushrooms and animals, because I feel like they're more common than maybe a lot of people know, even sort of on an evolutionary level. Right. So, but yeah, I'll just introduce myself and I'll be brief because I think that you, there might be some questions in in some of the notes that I saw that relate a bit to our origin stories, but I can always circle back to stuff but I'll just start with who I am right now, because that's the easiest one to answer. But yeah, I'm I'm an environmental educator and a professional wildlife tracker, and just promoter slash evangelist of tracking as sort of like a minimally invasive method and science. And I do have a background in Theology and Religious Studies, which I can get into more of why later. But I think that really relates to my interest in meaning making, whether it's kind of human or more than human. And now I actually yeah, I work, I've worked more and more kind of in sort of, I guess, the natural sciences field over the last decade or so partially through being a professional naturalist and environmental educator and starting getting interested in the research side. And I do many of you might know me because of queer nature, a project that I run with my spouse, Pienaar and other colleagues and conspirators. And it's just a place where we're creating learning spaces, and also kind of creating philosophy, I guess, and doing philosophy about kind of theories and practices of placemaking and relating to the more than human as queer and trans people. And then I also work occasionally as a wildlife technician. This past winter, I've been doing a project here in North Central Washington on metal lands where I live that is involved with using tracking and trailing in the snow to gather habitat, information and behavioural data on Canada links, which are state endangered here and look at their habitat use in basically mega fires, which is kind of a controversial term, but it's a publicly known term about massive, potentially anthropogenic wildfires. So super stoked about that. I also worked with the organisation cybertracker in various capacities, they're an international conservation organisation that certifies that runs tracking certifications globally, and is also involved with some interesting stuff with kind of like tracking as an indigenous science. And that's kind of a whole other other universe of topic. But but it's it's an interesting organisation to look into. But yeah, just just essentially, a lot of my life right now revolves around working to promote wildlife tracking, and sort of naturalist interpretation as tools for conservation, community science, and also local memory. And that last part is really important storing and restoring which I feel like we're going to talk about today. Yeah, and I think that that's all stay for now. It's just where I'm currently in landing in life. And I'm also currently working on a Master's of Science in Anthrozoology through Canisius University. It's the only Master of Science offered in that field in the country, just for anyone who's interested. It's the qualitative and quantitative study of human relationships with other animals. And it's a field that I'm really excited to highlight more because it really promotes hybrid methodologies that blend social science and natural science methods, qualitative and quantitative. So that stuff's really interesting to me, too. And yeah, I just, I'm just like cannon balling right in, I'm here. Hello. Yeah, well, I've long admired the clear collective with Pienaar queer nature and the work that you guys do. And both the storytelling element, the way that you bring your whole persons into the work that you do is something that immediately sort of spoke to me, you know, as people, you know, in in underrepresented groups working in like tracking and natural sciences. So I think there's a lot certainly I've like long felt a kinship with you, you guys, even though I've just met Pienaar last year, and now it's our first time speaking face to face. So it was, it's great to be here with you.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Yeah, thank you both for those introductions. Yeah, massive gratitude for you being here. I'm also feeling very, like nervous sighted. Both of your work has been so influential and interesting to me, in my own studies, and yeah, definitely working out a little bit over here. So forgive me. But yeah, I guess to kind of get us grounded in this work and this conversation of queer ecologies. I was wondering if you both might share kind of what brought you to the space? And maybe if there's like an early experience, engaging with your ecosystems in a certain way that maybe grounds you and your work? Yeah, or whatever that means to you.

Patricia Kaishian: Sure. Yeah, I can start so I guess. I mean, probably it doesn't matter so much. But I'm wondering if in the question you're thinking of to queer ecology specifically, or just sort of like what brought us into maybe the, the world that then brought us to queer ecology? I'm not, I'm not. So if there's a if you had an intention behind that thought, maybe we can clarify

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Either way, that my next question is how to define queer ecology, which feels very like a amorphous or, yeah, but yeah, whichever.

Patricia Kaishian: For me. I mean, to I always sort of locate myself in the world of mycology, because that's really what I've been living and breathing for 15 years, like in a formal way, but even before that, you know, really since I was a small child, I've spent a tremendous amount of time in the forests and swampy areas of where I grew up. I grew up in New York and sort of the throughout the Hudson Valley. And I've lived in other places since then. But I'm very familiar with the broadleaf, sort of mixed deciduous forests of the rolling hills and the you know, in the Hudson Valley, I'm not sure. I'm sure we have people from all over the world in attendance. But if you're not familiar with that this habitat it's so obviously temperate New York is temperate but and it's a glacial landscape post glacial landscape that was carved up. You know, in the last ice age here in the in North, like the continent of North America, and the helenus is, is really a big characteristic of the landscape. There's lots of pockets and grooves and sort of smaller habitats and swamps, very lush, very much for me, and the river, the Hudson, the river that flows both ways, is the central sort of feature of the of this landscape, which is, you know, an enormous river. And it's called the river that flows both ways because of how big it is, and how massive the for volume of the river is that it's affected very much so by the ocean tide. So the ocean, that high tide, it the river backflows, and fills and swells and then low tide, it's drugged out into the Atlantic Ocean. And so I've always oriented myself sort of mentally with respect to the, to the river. And I've found a lot of a lot of my time as a small child was spent sort of like creeping around in these rolling hills like with all this glacial erratic, and sort of just watching, I did a lot of watching as a kid, I didn't have, like, my parents were very permissive in terms of letting me just sort of go off into the forest alone and something I'm grateful for. But I didn't have much instruction in terms of like science or anything like that, they just sort of let me do stuff. And my natural inclination was to sort of sneak around and hide and like, like, move like a squirrel, sort of through the forest. So that was always a place of comfort for me, and safety for me. And there was an early connection that I experienced with other organisms that were sort of maligned. And so that actually wasn't first mushrooms. For me, my first love were snakes, and still are a love of mine, but that those creatures that and the sort of the swamp creatures is, are the organisms that I felt a deep kinship with. And, you know, I didn't, it took time for me to like develop an analysis for some of these natural impulses that I can sort of now contextualise and or like, elaborate social interpretations, but essentially, I was very drawn to these things. And so over time, I, you know, continue to nourish that part of me, you know, in, there are phases in middle school in high school where I maybe was a little bit less, you know, sure that I was, you know, I don't know, I, you know, there was a moment of were consumerism definitely played a role in my life. But I mostly maintained a pretty close connection to nature. And that definitely informed that's through that channel, I ended up finding fungi as a group of organisms that really spoke to me, that really felt familiar, and felt misunderstood and felt it felt like sort of this improbably beautiful, and sort of fluid and cryptic and all of these things that I had sort of felt in my own way. So I guess in neuro divergent speak, I have this is my one special interest to rule them all. I've, you know, basically, once I realised mycology was a thing I never, not, I was like, That's it, that was I'm going to be a mycologist now, and I've never sort of looked back. And then I guess, you know, as I sort of alluded to, in the opening, I found my I kind of came out a little bit later in life, but I had very early queer experiences that I just didn't sort of understand as such until I looked back on them. So I found like, assistance in sort of my own under self understanding in the biology of these organisms, both in this sort of impulses, sort of natural kinship, but then also, like in the actual biological details of how these organisms function, I found sort of a, like, it helped me understand my own biology and own way of being and and then also helped me inspired me to sort of go further and deeper and and sort of recast like my understanding of myself in some ways. Yeah, so maybe I'll pause there and pass it over to So

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: Thank you so much. It's always tricky for me to know how to tell the origin, the origin story. I feel like it changes every time I tell it. But I think what's really coming up for me now is such a big part of my work, even though tracking and a lot of naturalist interpretation is about looking at traces of past presence. In so many ways. My work right now as kind of a zoologist or anthropologist is really about what matters to animals. What matters to other animals? And how do they live their lives on these both mundane and sort of also massive big landscape scales. But I think that in such a big way, it does also traced back to my connections with non human others, including other animals as a kid and I, there's lots of stories to tell there. But I think one place it found expression was in my 20s, when I was in college, and I was, you know, I've always been really like a hybrid person. And in college, I couldn't decide whether to like major in wildlife science and animal science, or theology and religion. And they were in two different schools at the University of Vermont. So I ended up having like, minoring, in one majoring in the other and even that took some paperwork and petitioning to do. But I was always really, like really kind of interested in both those things. And I ended up focusing on religion and ecology and theology in my undergrad. But during the summers I would work on farms with animals. And I grew up in Vermont, which is very, very known for our small sort of civic agriculture movement and sort of organic and grass based agriculture and all that good stuff. And I ended up working with sheep a lot. Part of that was that my mom's Greek and I, that animal, sheep are very ubiquitous in Greek culture, especially rural culture. My mom grew up our village is a really rural village in central Arcadia in the Peloponnesian peninsula, which didn't have running water till the 60s, was very, very pastoral, and a lot of just subsistence living. And I've always been very just impacted by that, like, in the same way that when I go to Greece, as a kid, I would, you know, smell the incense and see the icons and hear the chanting at church and stuff. I would also see sheep, I would see their bodies, I would see them on the landscape, I would see their their meat, I would see their cheese, I would smell them. They were just ubiquitous as part of that effectual experience. And so I really was like, I want to I want to be with these beings in a way. And I also really noticed that sheep were very maligned and Western culture and used as a metaphor for stupidity. And I thought that was really interesting, because I also noticed that that was also the symbol for our God. So I was like, there's, I was like, there's some tea here like that we need that needs to be spilled. And I feel like we've been spilling. We've been doing some good work, spilling it over the last 10 years.

And there's some now I'm kind of re mythologizing and remediating this is something that's happening more especially like in the work of Sophie strand. So yeah, props to Sophie, and other folks doing that work. And so, basically, long story short, I started working with these animals, usually on small scale dairies, which, in that case, those animals are more tame, and more social, just because they're handled a lot in very intimate ways. And I just fell in love with them. I was just like these animals are. I mean, I'm obsessed with ungulates. That's kind of how that's how that story progresses to now is I'm obsessed with that family, the sort of Artiodactyla ungulate family, especially even toed ungulates, like deer and elk, and sheep. And I'm, I'm very fascinated by predator prey ecology and relationships, including our relationship to those animals, and our kinship with those animals. And like, What even is kinship? You know, it's a word that gets used so much in these types of conversations. And yeah, like, what is that and that familiarity, and that those just weird attachment and all of its baggage, and I became just obsessed with that. And I think that that's part I think, they led me and even like, following their tracks and trails at work, because I had the privilege of working in places where they were doing a lot of grazing and pastoring of these animals, which is not necessarily the norm but in Vermont it kind of is because like, I don't know, we're just Vermonters are just, you know, a little bit progressive like that, and in their agricultural practices. And so a lot of the time I'd be we, you know, I'd find you finding the sheep I'd be following the sheep and that involves looking at their tracks and trails what they pay attention to, when they got out of their pens. Why and it was usually because of something yummy. It was because of desire, usually, which is a big thing I focus on in ungulates is their desire and their rather than just what they're afraid of, because that often gets over emphasised.

And so that kind of led me to be really interested in movement and now, now movement and movement ecology is a big thing I'm constantly thinking of when I'm looking at tracks and trails and looking and becoming familiar with landscapes. And I'm super also curious how that correlates with fungi too, because I kind of think of movement as being basically what the animals do, but of course, it's not just animals, right? There's so many organisms that have strategies for movement, or that piggyback onto animals to move. And so, so just just kind of like movement as this universal expression of like, what, like what, how to map what matters to animals. And then, you know, in an undergrad and previous masters I, I focused on theology. And I think there the thread was like, I was also obsessed with another things, i have a few obessessions of special interest as well. And that was how humans map meaning onto landscapes. How do we also extract or discern or ascribe meaning from from landscapes and from non human worlds, it's so much about what religion is is like be the beyond the human. And then that really led me to study visuality, particularly iconography, I'm really interested in Byzantine iconography, and aesthetics. And then also the relationship between religion and ecology, broadly, geography, that sort of thing. And so I think that I had a revelation. And here's the, here's the origin story for right now is in the basement of the library at the Claremont School of Theology. I went there to do a degree in theology 10 years ago now, and I was I was before classes had even started, and I was just at the library, just like reading articles, because that because that was just what you do for fun. And I encountered this article on bio semiotics and I forget who it was by but it was kind of outlining this, this theory, this field where there were scientists and philosophers are thinking about meaning the as beyond the human like, like human meaning is just a small sliver is that there's the theory or paradigm of, of like, meaning and significance and like the relationships between signals and signification in the universe. And so if you can think about like process philosophy or ecology, like focusing on relationships, rather than just objects, bio semiotics really focuses on like, meaning, and like, what's what's happening in that, in that signification process between things. And that was just a revelation to me, because it kind of opened up this, this notion that meaning exists outside of the human world. And like, we're not just making that up. That's not just like, necessarily one other philosophy. I mean, it also is it's also a philosophy and a paradigm that I'm sharing right now. But in a very real sense, tracking had in the meantime really opened up to me and also learning about sheep from sheep. But it really opened up to me that there's just things that, like, animals have knowledge and culture and they and meaning is happens in their worlds. And also, maybe it happens in beyond animal worlds. Without us doing anything. Basically, when a mountain lion sees a scrape on the ground, that to us looks very innocuous, and just looks like a pile of pine needles, like to them that that's like a signal that's like a story, and bird alarms and bird language, you know, in the fact that so many species participate in in these Sentinel and advanced warning systems that exists in in, in the forest. So I just that that that was it. And then that was like, the moment that I kind of was led to like the special interest that's kind of I can't quit you. Like I'm just gay for it thing. And then that's where I am now with tracking and with, with the relationship between tracking and animal behaviour and zoology and place and just landscapes. And so I that was way longer than I intended. I'm sorry, but hopefully it gives some good threads for what's next.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Yeah, thank you, please don't apologise. I want you to just keep talking, but whilst my brain is like, I have like 80,000 questions to ask, I think it's so interesting, what you brought up about desire and movement. It makes me think a lot about how sometimes people kind of like, try and quantify animal experiences and animal consciousness by pain. And we don't really think about pleasure as much. Yeah, and it's really interesting, like, yeah, the desire and the hunger that kind of gets us moving. And something that I think is interesting in both of your work, and that you have both noted, is the kind of relationship between consumption and the way that we often interact with our landscapes. And as humans, what does that mean? A lot of people will track and will forage with the intention of eating what they are following. And I don't know what both of your practices are with that. I'm curious about that. I want to ask that question. And I'd also like to ask about queer ecology generally, and kind of what that term means to you and how you define it. And kind of, yeah, I think I often hear queer ecology kind of verb and that we are trying to queer ecology. Yeah, I think I'm particularly interested in your definition of, yeah. queering as a verb in a way of seeing and relating to ecosystems. So yeah, I guess two seeds of a question.

Patricia Kaishian: I would say that queer ecology for me is definitely hard to pin down definitionally which is, I would say is very much the point in a way right? So, taking a step back for a moment, just to make sure we're all on the same page, queer as a word, obviously, is relating to non heteronormative behaviours, orientation, attraction, gender expression, or, you know, sexual identity. And it's been reclaimed in the last few decades, but it had been used as a pejorative in the English language as an insult, of course, so it was reclaimed during the AIDS epidemic, the height of the AIDS epidemic in, in organising spaces that were trying to, you know, make, to take action to for the government, in particular, the US government to address the crisis and to actually handle it responsibly. And, you know, this sort of coalition was formed around these groups of people who had otherwise sort of existed under unique labels like gay, lesbian, trans, and queerness, sort of was an umbrella term that brought those groups together, to organise around justice, and like you're responsible care towards, in response to the AIDS epidemic. So inherent to me, and this is what I hold on to to this day inherent to me in the definition of queer is a communal, communal, activist sort of organising spirit, right? So to me, it's not just about who you love, or who you have sex with, right, but it's a queerness, to me is about fundamentally about action ended up community and about liberation. And I'm sure there are people who have other definitions, and but that's when I'm using the word queer that that is what I'm talking about. And so to me, queerness isn't about retreating into the forest and being alone, it's actually about how do you orient yourself. And that includes, again, in my definition, and this is where it expands into the ecology, your relationship to non human or the more than human but other species, right. And I would say, you know, what is traditionally considered nonliving, in sort of the Western framework. So entities, stone, rocks, rivers, mountains, also would be included in my sort of ecological conception. And of course, in the science of ecology, it's the science of ecology is about interactions between the living and the nonliving, the biotic and abiotic, the webs of encounters, that are being, you know, mapped and understood and quantified and qualified scientifically. So to queer ecology in my sort of approach is to sort of apply both the literal sort of, you know, exam, an examination of like, literally heteronormativity, and how it has been sort of baked into the bedrock of scientific understanding of organisms incorrectly in most cases. And it's also about, like, sort of reexamining the greater social forces at play in the practice of science and in the production of knowledge. So that would include, you know, when we talk about queer theory, queer theory is asking, you know, what is not what is considered normal? Who just defined something as normal? You know, what, what does it mean to be normal quote, or, you know, of course, normal always in being in quotes. And how are these definitions are boxes a reflection of systems of power? And where can we go if we dissolve these boxes? What would it mean to dissolve this box? Does this box need to be dissolved into an advanced liberatory agenda? And that question is something you ask it's sort of queer, queer theory. And so when you think about it scientifically, what aspects of science are reflective of historical power differentials? How has science at certain times been deployed to at the service of these power differentials? In what way? What can we keep from science? Because I'm not actually I am guessing, based on So's background as well. We're like, I'm not interested in like, throwing out science, I think we could become we could enter a really dark place, culturally, without science. But I think that at the same time, it's imperative that scientists sort of actively do this practice of reflecting on the ways in which the field has been shaped by social forces. And very often those social forces are things like heteronormativity, racism, ableism, and so forth, right? So to queer ecology would be to ask these group crucial questions about how organisms interact and how we all are in this sort of web of encounter on this planet. And, again, also very often very specifically about heteronormativity, right? Like, we know that there are queer animals we know that fungi have many sexes, right, these then bringing that to the fore, certainly, but then also, like how can we sort of operate, whereas the communal, the spirit of sort of community and activism, action, I mean, I feel like the word activism has a bit of a bad rep but like, right to, to, to mobilise to, to organise to, to sort of to work towards, I think like a liberatory notion of, of, of life, right. So that's, that's how I'm thinking of the field queer ecology. And but you know, I think there are limits, there's always it's an expanding, it's a, I would say, it's a relatively new field, it can be approached from many different angles. I'm a scientist by training. So that's I'm I'm often very interested in the material scientific examples of like, what we know and what we, how has it actually shaped the way we function on this planet? Right. I'm also sort of like, a Marxist, kind of so like, I'm very interested in the material conditions. So what what do we how do we sort of like use theory to get at very concrete lived experiences, right? And knowledge? So that's, that's sort of, I mean, obviously, that's not like the final word on it. But that's I'll start there. Maybe So wants to add to that, or join in?

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: thanks so much, Patty. Thank you for just so richly giving words to that, because I struggle with it too. So I feel like we're in solidarity that I struggled to, like define it. And, or to define it for myself, I suppose. Because it's also such a broad theme, like queer ecology. And so for me like, yeah, it's a difficult question to answer. But I will say, the first part is, so ecology just even being highlighted more in the natural sciences, since kind of the latter part of the 20th century. So really, just like my lifetime kind of thing like that, to me is quite as a bit queer. And I like that a lot. Because I think that ecology was kind of a new field in sort of the, you know, 60s and 70s, onward. And it's, you know, the focus on relationships and multiplicity has a queerness to it. And I think also very broadly queer, queer ecology. Like it, it almost feels repetitive to me, where I'm like, well, ecology is queer and queer is ecology or something. But I also like it, because it's like, just I like, it's like, give me all of it. Yeah, I want all the repetitive nature of all these things. So it does feel like a restoring of ecology. But ecology also feels like a restoring of Natural Science, at least for Western subjects in the 20th and 21st centuries. So I think a big part of how I relate to as a trans person, and how I see my peers relating to it is like, it's basically a saying, like, we belong here. And like pretty much everything else, everyone else does, too, in their own way. And this is sort of how it called you should be and some of you might have heard me talk before about the Greek root word of ecology in Greek and I know I'm like, I'm like going full Greek dad here being like, well, let's talk about that. eptymology, but, but I, I kind of just play with it because the word Oikos means home. And so I've kind of come to think of ecology and also the narratives around it of like, of like homemaking and homecoming and also Ecocide that means that then Ecocide is a dispossession of home and homing and belonging. And so yeah, that queer ecology is about us creating like a mythic home for ourselves that we're doing right now. And, and yeah, and like also when teaching people in wildlife tracking spaces, and we're doing interpretation and naturalist stuff, I'm often asking people Pienaar and I are like, in whatever landscape you find yourself in how to how do the beings here make their home here? How do they belong here? How does belonging look and in one reason I'm I grew up in Vermont, but now I live in the northern part of the Columbia River plateau, which is an amazing rocky kind of like, ethereal sagebrush, high desert landscape and some of my friends from the East Coast come here and they're like verse so first of all, they're like, where are the trees? Like it's it's a concern like people are, are a bit like shaken. And then also like, why is there so much dirt on the ground, there's all this space between the sagebrush and, and interestingly, that so the sagebrush are the trees, they are like, it's a mini forest. And then also the space between is so important in deserts and that's why like the incursion of like cheatgrass and Medusa head grass and stuff is so dangerous for fires because it creates fuel in those spaces. And in the sagebrush steppe, we actually we like to have spaces between bushes so that things don't catch fire and burn everything. And so there's stuff like that where it's like, where it's hard for us at times and some and me too as like a boreal forest little creature to come to the desert places and be like, what what's going on here? Like how do people even live here? How people being animal inclusive, of course, are human inclusive and Animals inclusive. And so that's a really interesting thing to me is like, how do beings belong here? And we don't know at first. But yeah, like how do beings belong here and a big part of this, for me it especially if we're talking about how queer ecology can be wildlife specific, because I have to a bit focused on that so that I don't, so that I reign myself in a bit for a respect of all of our time. But ultimately, it's about everyone having dignity, and agency and sovereignty, including animals, non human animals. And when I say animals, I mean, I mean, human inclusive, so I am get trying to get better about saying, and all animals. So dignity, basically. So the ways this applies to wildlife is, there's been a lot of narratives and conservation management that are just focused on lumping all animals together by a species, they're all behaviorally homogenous, they're all going to do this and that we're going to predict this and that. And that, that does not emphasise agency and personality, but that's starting to happen in the wildlife sciences and specifically in wildlife ecology, which is really cool. What effects did personality have on like personality as this butterfly effect, or like one elk or one elephant learns how to do this, they teach the others social learning. So the extent to which social learning is present is a hugely queer ecology thing for me, and that the recognition that animals have culture and have social learning passed on through generations and use trails, and routes that are that are learned and passed on by mothers or parents and learned to those to their offspring and move over generations of time. And so, um, you know, like some other examples are like, animals, like the assumption that animals prefer these undisturbed or pristine landscapes. And it's like, no queer, like edges cryptic like crypto forests. No, no, we don't like what the hell. So like all these there's, I like all this questioning of these assumptions that have been made by Western science about wildlife and animal behaviour and zoology and sort of landscapes and, and I mean, landscapes are disturbed there. And I don't say that value neutral. By the way, when I say disturbed, I don't mean bad or wrong. And landscapes are altered, and they're transforming. There's a huge conversation right now around fire in queer ecology and in ecology in general. That's great, this disturbance regime, and deer deer herd is also a disturbance regime and a forest. And so I think ultimately, like seeing that, things are transforming. And the beings are responding to that. And beings are these all animals have dignity and agency and sovereignty, and also humans are animals. To me, that's a big part of how queer ecology filters into wildlife sciences and wildlife adjacent stuff in general.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Thank you both so much for that. I think there's so much juice in those responses. And I really appreciate how relational and like communally held whose responses are, and I'm really patient with them. I said in the chat that this meeting is also kind of a homemaking. It's nice thinking about us, digital like spaces as places as well. And yeah, I really am curious about those active like homemaking and placing ourselves within ecosystems. It seems to me that like, yeah, one of the dangers of conventional Western science thinking is kind of extracting humans from those ecosystems, like you're saying, so yeah, I'm curious about how you both have kind of placed yourself within your ecosystems, and kind of how you see those responsibilities to place. And maybe you could talk a bit about your specific practices of foraging and tracking and whatever else that might include walking and listening to birds. And yeah, how these practices might be, I don't know, acts of devotion, and also kind of how they allow you to maybe decenter, that human perspective a bit. But yeah, take that however you'd like to.

Patricia Kaishian: So we don't typically think of like, tracking mushrooms, right? We think about foraging them or just, you know, looking for them. And I think kind of returning to something you teased earlier, which is like, you know, consumption at the core of a lot of people's engagements with the natural world. And obviously, we all eat and we all need to consume. So it's not about sort of overly vilifying that desire. But I do think that I am very interested in this idea of sort of attending to or sort of offering my attention towards the spaces that I've I like regularly frequent. When I go out to look for mushrooms very, I mean, I do occasionally collect them to eat but I would say 95% of the time, I'm not seeking them for food, I'm sort of sort of studying their behaviour and that could be sometimes that is done in an official way for official science, but very often it's really just for my own pleasure and my own sort of like wanting to be attentive towards them sort of an offering of sorts. And, and one thing I'm very inspired by some of the, you know, I don't find much inspiration at all in the history of the United States at any point, besides like, you know, struggle or movements against, you know, power. But what's one of the I mean, you could argue that actually some of these early American naturalist were struggling against, you know ecocide, although I think that they were, they were not queer in that they were not intersectional they were not sort of nesting, they were not meant necessarily connecting the dots between systems of power and systems thinking, right. And so often, these are like white men of moderate wealth, right? Moderate means of wealth, but that's an aside, I still nonetheless have learned a lot from the sort of daily devotional works of writers like Aldo Leopold, people who sort of constantly, without specific goals, would go out and observe what the world around them in great detail with over extremely long periods of time, basically focusing on very small places, right, not trying to, like survey an entire coat like continent, but, you know, attending to their like, swamp, right. Or revisiting places again and again and again, and and again. And so in that is mushrooms are so part of their appeal to me, has been their cryptic nature, they're fleeting and ephemerality, and the ways in which they can be often be very unpredictable. And, and they move they don't, it's not like, you know, when you think about an oak tree, it doesn't occasionally just slip underground for like, seven years and then pop up somewhere else. But mushroom, fungi are doing that often. Right? Not Not all, but many. And so this reading the landscape had to become a big part of being a mycologist. But I, you know, kind of had to jump on that because of my childhood, right, where I was always just sort of lurking and watching. And so the same sort of whatever pleasure that brought me as a child is that same thing is activated in me now as an adult, as I sort of move around the landscape with like a really high degree of attention. Now, I've had to move a few times, because of I'm, I've been on the academic trajectory. So you know, I've had to go to I went to grad school in Syracuse, and then I had a postdoc in Indiana. And then I had, I was a professor at Bard College in the Hudson Valley for two years, and then I took this job at the museum. So always what has been a challenge for me is maintaining a relationship to a particular spot over a long period of time. Luckily, in this current position, I think I can be here sort of indefinitely. So I'm cultivating that relationship to a few different one, two different places, right now we're sort of religiously, and I use that word intentionally revisit these places and sort of just be there offering attention, I think, you know, in the attention economy is, you know, is hot right now. And so there's something I think a lot can be offered by sort of care beings being offering that care and that focus, and not splitting it over many different devices or other things. What I recommend to people for like, if you're interested in sort of deepening practices of connection to nature is developing ritualistically a process of revisiting again and again, and again, ideally, for you know, years, right years and years and years. And I think that there's no replacement for time in the development of these relationships. Sometimes relationships are, you know, are like, you know, burn, burn bright, hot and fast, right, but but I think most of the time, these, what the interactions become more profound, the more you do them. And it's I think that's a little bit counterintuitive to a lot of elements of today's culture, right, which is like, the novelty of things, and the fastness and the stimulation and the big rush of endorphins and dopamine. But I think actually, the slowness the long game, right, in attending to places and beings within them, is something that kind of straddles the line between science and religion. And is inherently becomes sort of collective because you have to be participating in sort of the life ways of these other beings and you're not able to control them. And yeah, so yeah, I touched on a few things there, but maybe I'll pass it back to So.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: I feel like really gets into the sort of main course I suppose of our of our intention with this conversation. So I love it. And I have so much to say but I'm going to kind of start in In the middle, I suppose with like, what am I working on right now that addresses these questions. And I think that right now, especially talking about the attention economy, I'm really working on my relationship and sort of balance between seeking and movement and stillness. And that's just so up for me right now. I mean, like, like, in some ways seeking and foraging, and there's a really well known who's now passed, ethologist, or animal behaviourist, Jack Panksepp, who worked at the I think, the Zoo for years here in Washington, who did a lot of animal behaviour stuff and a lot around what he called the seeking system, which is kind of the dopaminergic mesh network of neurons in particularly in mammalian brains. But dopamine also exists in plants too. And I'm actually curious if it exists in fungi, I'm not sure about that. But um, but basically, the seeking system or like our desire to forage, which means to find things, we can also forage for information. That's what also we do as scholars. And we also we can't quit that we just and it's because it's the most broad spectrum programme in animals, like, it's 500 million years old, it's and it's very tied with movement, dopamine and movement are and also, like, there's a lot of research coming out now on the connection between movement and thinking and creativity. And like, this is one of my positions as sort of someone who works in cognitive ecology, or like how animals perceive the world and how that's related to their environment. And so it's like, in some ways, we think it moving helps us think it's not the only way we think and feel, but it's so much a part of it. And that's so much related to dopamine, which dopamine is also very involved in just initiating motor and locomotory control, and locomotory, initiation and animals. So I'm dealing with the fact that finding things and tracking and finding trails, or, you know, if you're someone who likes to look for antlers, or hunts for rocks, or for just for mushrooms, like it's very addictive, and it's like, amazing, because it's, it's medicine, it's so it's purposeful movement, and purposeful, hypothetical deductive reasoning, it's science, you know what I mean? Like, it's science as a behaviour in the raw. And so it's so good. And also, I'm right now, I'm also trying to really realise that the more I start learning about animals from animals, and this would probably be similar to someone who Yeah, mycologist, or a botanist, who's like learning about forests from being in the forest, is, after a while, you get really curious about participating in all of it. And you're like, because being a naturalist is kind of, it's kind of this problematic archetype, right of this passive observer who's just who's just witnessing things. And I love witnessing is amazing. But there's also this way in which as a tracker, and as an animal, kind of as zoologist, you start realising that, there's all this interspecies communication going on, and a big way the animals communicate, other than through sound and smell is through space, and proximity, and mutual avoidance and body language. These are ways that animals can communicate to each other across species. And so what becomes really interesting for me as a tracker, is what happens when, and if you've worked with horses, you might know the philosophy of like pressure and release or dogs like dog training, where we apply pressure, or sort of urgency or sort of an effect or impact. And then we release the pressure and that that's in some ways, that's the that's the universal language, right. And it's even though it's even what tracking is about, it's about pressure and release of pressure on substrates. And so for me, I've been really in this conversation about what happens when we release the pressure, what happens when we slow down in landscapes and move at the actual pace that our attention is moving at. And for me, I have ADHD, my attention and processing speed can be very fast, but it still doesn't exceed physics. Like I still I have to move through space. And I impact animals when I move through space, again, impact being value neutral, but maybe the deer spook and because I'm just looking down and just looking at tracks, and I'm not looking up and that's okay, like that's the as we get more the the process of familiarisation in that kind of nonhuman animal world, people will say that you'll see a lot of deer butts because like, you'll just you'll get close enough to them that they're just spooking when you can see them, right usually they're they're leaving a lot sooner. And so I think that some things I've been really playing around with are sitting and observing and just having like, like Patty was saying, having places that you return to and for me even having one spot that you return to to like sit or to do as a slow even 10 minute one of my mentors calls it like her 10 minute tracking walks, just like walk around your house or your yard or a neighbourhood like in this because because walking can also be as well as sitting a contemplative practice and just having that and I think that what that's really opened up to me is like, um, it's a slower practice and it doesn't involve me like moving across landscapes and finding things more quickly. And I think that it can help interrupt this process. This narrative we have as naturalist, especially in a western millio, where we're like, What can I get out of this landscape? Like, what can this landscape give me and like, or give my students maybe if there's a, there's pressure, it's like, I gotta find cool stuff. I gotta find charismatic stuff to show my students or whatever. And I think that like, it's really an interesting point as a naturalist, and also a mentor and just a person to start to, like really open up to mystery in that way, in the moment where you're like, I'm just going to witness or I'm just going to step back and release pressure. And one example of that is recently my my colleague were and I were teaching a tracking class last weekend, and we were preparing for it. He was here at my house, and we were walking up this dusty kind of Old Forest Service road, we started to see fresh turkey tracks like they this is a kind of an exposed road. And these tracks were so fresh that you could see the impressions of like the creases between their fingers, which are called tecnating ridges and birds and big game birds have ground dwelling birds have like kind of fat knobby Fingers, toes. And the wind hadn't even blown that away yet. And we're like, wow, seeing all these strikes were like these turkeys are like here, like they're like you're somewhere. And so then we look up and about 150 metres ahead, there's these like big black basketball shaped dots on the landscape. There's like eight of them, and we're like, oh my God, those are the turkeys. And of course, the turkeys by that point had seen us turkeys and birds in general have amazing visual acuity, turkey hunters will tell you if it's been tortuously impossible almost to sneak up to them. They just bust you all the time. They're like busting people left and right. And like that's what they do like for breakfast. And it's, it's, it's wild. And so I was sure that there's like, oh, yeah, they're going to avoid us. But instead of following the trail and being like, Oh, let's see how close we can get to them. Because that's a big thing. And wildlife viewing and trailing is like get close to the animal see the animal. And for me, it's like, I don't always have to do that. It's kind of like romance or sexuality. Like when I when I do that. It better fucking matter. Like, I'm not just gonna do that. You know what I mean? And so, yeah, we had this moment where we were so like, we were like jacked up on dopamine really kind of follow, we gotta follow and then we're like, no, let's sit. So we moved aside the road, where all this train of like turkey tracks have just come through, they were all right there. 100 metres ahead. We sat like about five feet off the road. And we just started talking casually, which is what one of my friends who is engaged in some martial arts practices. One of my friends Joan, he, she calls them friend speed. And so we're kind of going at friend speed, like, we're not being so stealthy, that we're going to, like scare the shit out of these animals, because they're like, why are those other animals being so stealthy, they're trying to like, you know, predate me, but we're just casually talking, we're also not being too loud. And then a few minutes later, the turkeys are like, 20 feet away, and they've come down the road to like, well to a to travel back down the road. But they've also come down the road to sort of investigate us, they're looking at us. And we were just blown away, because there's all these narratives about like, turkeys are impossible to, you're never gonna get that close to them in the wild. And they're so they're so afraid of you. And because, you know, there's also this trauma around humans as the super predators, which we could we do cause alot of impact. And that is how a lot of animals in North America treat us. But they just walked by us about 20 feet away, they were kind of looking at us, but they were just walking by. And we just got this amazing broadside view of these eight Tom's beautiful, gorgeous, and then as they got like, maybe five feet beyond us, they just they just moved slightly closer as hopped back on the road and kept going because it was it was like their road and we moved off, we moved off the road to sit down. And that was just this amazing example of like, we couldn't have made that happen. Like that had to happen through them choosing that. And that when and then choosing that had to be caused by us releasing the pressure. So I'll just stop there because I don't want to run out of time. But like, that is just a story I really wanted to share with you guys today.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Yeah, thank you so much for sharing. I love that emphasis on just kind of like not always reaching or questioning why reaching and just kind of sitting in the smoke is the focus small like attention of being still. Thank you very much for sharing.

Patricia Kaishian: I love I love that story too. And I think that that is really similar.. It's similar like mycologist have some like little sayings. I don't know how well known they actually are but amongst my colleges we talked about some times that usually you'll find I don't know a mushroom you're really excited about when you don't bring your collecting basket or you know, you'll find you know you're off or if you don't have like your knife on you or some of your implements, right and when you've sort of released that that expectation. And I also find that I've seen people get into like very feverish, desperate states of wanting to find certain edible mushrooms like morels in particular, where they were like almost jumping around, like indignant that they haven't found them.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: It's like his entitlement to Yes, yeah, being in the presence or something.

Patricia Kaishian: Exactly. And of course, yes, you could still find, you know, obviously, there they exist like it's, regardless of your mood, it's possible to find them in theory, but like, but that sort of stomping and huffing around I mean, it's strange how often I've seen it, or just like me being requested from people who I barely know, to go take them to places a similar kind of a similar story i A few years ago, I was living in Indiana, which was I had a very negative experience living in that state, because of the massive biodiversity loss. It's like all corn and soy and, and flat. And I don't want to go too into that now, because it's a whole thing. I could talk about it for a long time, but I had a very negative, and it was also 2020. So it was also pre vaccine COVID. And I knew no one there and I moved there for a postdoc position, it was very lonely in dark time. Biodiversity, like biologically lonely. But anyway, in the spring, it was Morel season. And I was sort of I had a friend who wanted more from our friendship than I was willing to provide. But he nonetheless, like we knew a lot about trees. So I was like, Hey, do you know, do you happen to know, you know, new to the area? Do you happen to know where I can find like some tulip poplar, and, like oak, maple, kind of like if you have a good stand that you're aware of. And I said, when we I wanted to go and whatever. So find Morels. So he took me there. And, you know, I do my process of sort of moving through the forest, which is, I think, to an observer slow and very random, as if I'm stumbling, not literally tripping, but just like moving in a way that seems completely random, but it's not random at all. Actually, I'm reading the landscape, reading for moisture I'm reading for for vegetation changes ingredients and soil type, plant, you know, vegetation, community ecology, essentially, right. And we find Morels. Not surprisingly, because I, this is what I've dedicated my life to doing right. And he's like, wow, that was so random. How did we find them? And it was like it well, it wasn't random, you know, it was it I this is something this is like a skill, like this is something I know how to do from years and years and years of studying landscapes. And even though I've never been to Indiana before or never been to this forest before, like there are things that are common amongst put these types of ecosystems. And, and then he continues to repeat how random it was that he wasn't listening to me. And then like I collect a few, but there were some still young and I was like, let's come back in a couple of days and come back. And I'll take what I found here and I'll make a cook us have some dinner. And the next day, he brought a bunch of his friends back and collected all of them and didn't tell me. Yeah, and and, and then when I saw him, he posted all these photos of it online. And I was like, why did why did you do that? Like I we had a plan, I was going to cook them for you like I was going to share them with you like I was gonna share them with whoever wanted. And he's like, Well, you don't own the forest. You don't you know, and it was this really, you tried to sort of switch this possessively you tried to accuse me of being possessive. Whereas it was this feeling open to entitlement sort of, and it felt very gendered and it felt very extractive. And the new, the sort of subtle skill of reading a landscape is one that is I think feminine. I associated a lot with sort of intuition, which is sort of a fit, quote unquote feminised mode of knowledge, way of knowing and way of communicating. And I just start I mean, sorry, this is I didn't mean to make it a tangent, but it's it's sort of the other side of that coin. I think the the flip side of your story, right, which is that people the demanding of things from people who either the landscape itself or the people who have sort of dedicated themselves to the landscape is a a troubling thing. I think I'm eager for people to cultivate relationships to the earth, but I, I do I don't think all sort of gatekeeping is bad, right? I do think that the type of relationship I want people to have is not one of just consumption. It's about attending to right and that time that there's no replacement for that, like the amount of time it takes to to cultivate these relationships right. You can't, you can't like just jump ahead. So anyway, I will just say for the queer ecology class that I'm teaching, it starts next week we will be part of the class will be this sort of place based sit spot practice that I've, I've done in other courses that I've taught and it'll be something that everyone does each week. And so I'll tell you a lot more about that and sort of guide people through that process. And we'll share some of our experiences each week along the way. And I would love if Yeah, whoever is interested in this course to join me, join me there.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: Just to say one more comment to I know, we're like overtime, but I'm sorry, what I'm like, I was just so inspired by your story, Patty, and I think that that I see that in wildlife so much. And I agree, I really struggle with like, like, that's one reason I don't use a inaturalist to log big carnivore detections. And because they think, yeah, like, I think that one of the themes in everything we've been talking about is attention is actually a limited resource. And that fact is totally obscured by capitalism, we're led to believe that we all just can pay them to know whatever, whenever. And also, especially for queer and trans people, Curiosity is a limited resource, and it's very vulnerable to be curious, actually. And so, like cultivating these relationships over time, and then feeling like someone is like, oh, yeah, like need to, I need to see this or I need to, and it, it does feel like sometimes it can be disrespectful to those beings, who, you know, whom create those tracks and sign and seeing, seeing their traces as just another sort of commodity to consume can be hard for me. And so I also have to balance that as well, which is, you know, part of why I don't give give locations with, especially with endangered carnivores here in Washington. And I'm also just super interested in like, learning about that in community to like, and leaning into that question, because it's, it's like, super interesting. And, and yeah, like, how do we move on the land at the pace of our attention, and our attentional capacities given that they're limited. And also, moving is always done relative to awareness. So sometimes the stomping around, you're talking about that that body is like moving that fast, because they have like an idea in their head that they're moving toward, but then you're you're you're slow meandering, and like, kind of geomantic like reading of the landscape that you're describing, that you like, you really, it's an amazing teaching for us. Because you've really worked so hard for so many years to like, match your pace of movement with your the type of attention that you're doing and what you're paying attention to. And I think that's so much of the practice for all of us is like, it's not that movement is bad. It's not that stillness is bad. It's not that we should do one and not the other have this balance, but it's about like, how are we moving? are living at the actual pace of our attentional capacities? And how do we just acknowledge that they're limited? And that's good, because we're animals, and we're finite, and we're supposed to die one day, you know? So?

Patricia Kaishian: Yeah, thanks for recognising that I appreciate it's really good to be to talk to people about this topic, because it's very, it's subtle, and, and you do want to be as a teacher, I'm always trying to bring people in, right? But, but it's important not to, it's still important to sort of maintain a practice of the integrity of the practice and trying to walk that line of like bringing people in, but ultimately, deferring to something outside of myself and outside of the group is, is something that takes time, and I'm imperfect. And certainly, it's good to talk to people who have a similar like, yeah, kind of continue this conversation, because there's a lot I know, I still have a lot to learn from others and other skills that people independently cultivated.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): So thinking about embodiment in nature and hunting, specifically, we use a lot of bird call. Yeah. And I'm curious if you have more to say about, you know, drag, gender embodiment, and their interaction and how to do it in ways that include the agency of the animals, because with hunting, it's like we're seducing we're pretending we're the sexy, the sexy bird and want them to come over. And I don't know how I feel about that. So just want to hear you say more about

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: Yeah. I mean, like, yeah, that is such a rich and juicy topic. And I don't, I don't have the answers, but I do feel that like, it's that like, it is so fascinating. And it is such an honour to however we are, do it, get it get to step into those animals worlds. And I do think that it should, it makes so much sense that it shouldn't be taken with such a degree of like, sacredness, like taking our shoes off at the temple sort of thing. And I think it's definitely not talked about enough. I mean, it's not talked about at all in mainstream hunting culture, like just the fact that we're in Yeah, that we're engaging in these kind of like erotic practices with these animals, like using calls or using urine to like, like, fake urine or estrus, smells or whatever, like that. And that is all very Yeah. I mean, it's very entangled and very erotic, you know, and it also holds such a high degree of like, like, I feel like so much devotion and respect and, and, and humility is called for in that and I think that like, that's why I love when people who practice hunting, do really try to try to learn naturalist interpretation and wildlife tracking, sign an animal behaviour stuff, and really, like engage the subjectivity and agency of those animals. And and yeah, I'm curious, Patty, what you'd have to add to this? Because I think that it's just an open question. Like, it's just an open question. And I really honour and respect and in that question, too.

Patricia Kaishian: I think that there I think, I don't know, I feel like your your sort of notion of like releasing the pressure is something that I maybe best answers is to the this idea that we can't, like, overly dictate. But I don't know, I, um, something, something I think about a lot is, you know, the ways in which we sort of forecast. So, when you read intuition, right, you can often sometimes I feel like, you're you can be deceived by intuition, right? Sometimes you're like, if you feel something in your gut, but sometimes it's because you want to believe it. And sometimes your what you detect is intuition is not entirely correct, right. I mean, I think often we devalue intuition. So I, I'm always trying to, to hone my intuition, increasingly, but then there's something about like, with the landscape as well, like, sometimes I'm so sure I'm going to have this encounter today. Like not even that I'm demanding it or like, it's not even for consumption necessarily. It's like a particular species that I just know, I'm going to see. And sometimes I don't, right. And then there's this one, sometimes I'm wondering, was I was I asking for this? Or was I was all the information correct, but it just happened to not be there. And there's something sort of immediacy like similar things, like learning your own intuition as a language is similar to like, sort of learning the subtleties of the landscape, because they're, they're not Oh, especially with mushrooms, there's so much uncertainty that we haven't teased out like there. And with animals, too, I'm sure because of their behavioural decision making that makes it more like much more unpredictable, in certain ways, but I'm very fascinated by the similarities between sort of intuition as a very powerful tool, but one that is still sort of never, never could, you cannot make a science of it. Right? Entirely. So I'm, and then and similarly, like, with mycology, you can all of the conditions might be right. And you might be very, very comfortable and sort of tuned into the environment, and it can still surprise you. So yeah, I'm just sort of a open open thought

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Thank you both. I'm gonna try and synthesise question here into a final question about humans eating meat and farming. And I'm coming at this like, largely from a farming perspective. And I think something that I sit with a lot is the guilt of kind of being the decision maker in an ecosystem. So yeah, kind of curious. Yeah. How you see, like participation in human nature relationships, when there's been like, I don't know, ruptures and I don't know, legacies of humans kind of trying to extract themselves. And yeah, kind of the access of human power there. Yeah. And I guess just in that any final closing thoughts that you will, would like to offer, as we wrap up, or anything that you wish that we'd asked you?

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: I mean, this is a great question, too. And I just saw this great article, that research that just came out, I'm particularly interested in domestication of animals as like a kind of see it as like an ongoing relationship and as in times, at times a symbiotic relationship. And there's a really good book called The first domestication written by a couple of amazing scholars out of Kansas, that I really recommend. It's about the it's about wolves and dogs. And it's, it just I won't go into it because we don't have time. But it really reframes some things in an interesting way. And this article I recently read was about was just based on some meticulous archaeological excavation work that's gone on for years. And what is now Turkey, and what they were really talking about how they were finding these certain sediments at these settlements over over periods of 1000s of years, and they sort of put together that people didn't realise, they were like, well, people didn't really like maybe intend to domesticate animals the way they are today. Like sheep and goats, right? And cows, but it kind of just happened over time. Because we started keeping maybe these people in the settlement started keeping young animals through the winter, they would they would start to keep the young and then that led to creating bigger pens and keeping more and, and stuff like that. And I, I think that in the rewilding and sort of some of some movement spaces, agriculture, sometimes the questions like the philosophical discussions about like sort of the badness or goodness of it are really good, but they can they can actually take away from really critical and outside the box thinking that can happen, especially in relation to like studying something like soil science, which these scientists like for them to even imagine this narrative took a lot of work and it just it took them actually asking questions that were totally outside the narrative of how we either see agriculture as like this divine mandate or how we see at us, or have some of us may see it as like sort of the wrong path or evil or something like that. And so I really liked that. And I do see domestication as a conversation as an ongoing conversation. In the same way that evolution is simply the like, when just more a certain allele becomes more dominant in a population, whether that's adaptive or not, whether it's good or not, whether we agree or disagree on when it's good. I see I kind of see that with domestication. And I see it as like this ongoing relationship that that in many ways has become really toxic and abusive, especially if I think about it through my sheep and human lens. Like why would we treat an animal that gives us life and call them stupid? That feels like gaslighting. So that feels like an abusive relationship, the way people talk about, about ungulates a lot of the time in Western culture, especially men, and especially sort of the more patriarchal so to me, I feel like yeah, there's there's really something there. But I do feel like it's humans are animals who are also kind of niche creators. Like I don't know about keystone species, if that's the right word, but we kind of create, yeah, I love justice for ungulates, I love that. We we do a lot to alter landscapes and other animals do that too. But that has been obscured a lot of the time by by kind of colonisation and species loss and deformation or the loss of of individuals from non human individuals from the planet. And a big example is like grizzly bears, like they displaced 1000s of tonnes of soil from their, throughout their range throughout their digging through their digging, because grizzly has really evolved to dig roots and bulbs and excavate. pocket gophers are like a tiny version of a fosorile animal that aerate the soil and mountain lions who've been diminished from a lot of their range deliver 1000s of pounds of meat and carbon in the form of flesh back to the landscape across their million acres range all over the Americas. And so yeah, I think that humans are we were just disturbers. Definitely, and I don't say that necessarily in a bad way. But it can totally be harmful. And it can also be beneficial. And so I think that, seeing that as like a huge part of human behaviour and seeing animal, sorry, seeing human society and culture through the lens of animal behaviour for me really helps me answer those questions or like, investigate those questions with more curiosity or with curiosity. And not I shouldn't say more with just curiosity and openness and allow some of that outside the box thinking. So I don't know, that's just part of an answer to that. But I think it's great. And I love that you asked it. So thank you.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): And thank you, I really appreciate them, and good and bad and kind of take us out of the creativity of like existing in lots of the in between spaces.

Patricia Kaishian: I mean, I don't have too much to add, just because you know, being sensitive to the time. But I think this has been an amazing conversation. Priya, thank you so much for for guiding us here and setting things up and doing the amazing artwork that you do for Advaya and running school study groups, and so much. So it's great to be working with you. But yeah, I think maybe maybe we can, I would love to you know, this conversation will definitely continue in the class next week. So if you're feeling hungry for it, that's where we'll be. I hope people consider joining us. And I would love so we should do another event together.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: I would love that. Yeah, an email to follow up about this, because I would love to just like chat and connect more in the future.

Patricia Kaishian: Thank you all. Thank you so much. Thank you. So I really appreciate you joining me.

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd: Thanks for inviting me guys. I feel like this feels so natural and would love to come back. And yeah, thank you all so much. Take care.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): Yeah, thank you both. This was awesome. You're so cool.

Patricia Kaishian: Likewise.

Priya Subberwal (advaya): I'm gonna go ahead and end the meeting. But yeah, thank you so much for your time and yeah, hope. Thank you.


Dr Patricia Kaishian

Dr. Patricia Ononiwu Kaishian is the Curator of Mycology at the New York State Museum, and a professor of biology with Bard Prison Initiative. Her research focuses on fungal taxonomy, diversity and evolution, as well as queer theory and philosophy of science.

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Priya Subberwal

Priya (they/she): graphic artist and host of monthly study club

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So Sinopoulos-Lloyd

So Sinopoulos-Lloyd is an environmental educator, professional wildlife tracker, and co-founder of Queer Nature. So studies human relationships with other animals, and has an academic background in both religious studies and animal science.

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