Political Ecology Network

PhD project: “What’s all the Buzz? Managing competing interests in developing Western Australia’s beekeeping industry” 

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About the project:

An innovative and motivated PhD candidate is needed to develop new approaches for a ’license to operate’ tailored to the Western Australian beekeeping industry. The project will examine the social, political and ecological barriers and opportunities for securing optimal hive site accessibility (license to operate) now and into the future. A license to operate is a priority for ensuring the productivity and profitability of the WA beekeeping industry, and for negotiating with industry, hobbyists, the general public, and stakeholders over the reform needed to expand the industry in light of competing interests.

Currently, there is little understanding of the distribution, impact, and measures for managing bee sites as a means of a ‘licence to operate’. A boom in beekeeping has seen rising numbers of hobbyists and commercial operators compete for scarce resources. Honey bee sites are usually on public lands and may be remote. A ‘licence to operate’ must be developed in the context of competing land uses and resources, a wide range of stakeholders with diverse agendas and political agency, and compounding factors (such as wild bees, native species and environment conservation, declining honey yields, climate stressors, and prescribed burning or wildfires). To achieve effective community/stakeholder engagement in designing and implementing strategic policy interventions also requires myth-busting and evidenced-based recommendations.

This project serves to increase productivity and profitability of beekeepers, and to increase understanding of the competing interests in the management of honey bee hive sites in WA. The aim is to promote equitable, harmonious, and sustainable access to sites and the co-habitation of commercial apiaries with hobbyists, wild bees, native wildlife and natural bush environments, conservationists, and pastoralists. As such, this project will provide economic and health value to these bee hive sites, and inform state agencies and stakeholders for policy and planning consideration especially for stakeholder engagement, conservation, forestry, mining and bush-fire regulation.

The successful candidate will have scope to tailor the project in terms of methodology and theoretical approach to aid in the development of a sustainable and profitable WA beekeeping industry by addressing the following objectives:

  1. Identify the challenges and trade-offs facing the beekeeping industry and beekeeping practices across Southwest WA.
  2. Identify interventions and strategies to promote securing a sustainable future for native bushland, wildlife, and farming communities, that promotes a healthy commercial beekeeping industry.
  3. Develop a decision-making tool for honey bee hive sites development to optimise trade-offs between apiary activities and competing interests.

More specifically, this PhD project, over the course of 3.5 years, will identify solutions for competitive and harmonious co-habitation between wild, commercial species and a range of anthropogenic factors across spatially and ecologically-diverse native environments and commercial beekeeping arrangements that are distinctive to WA.  This may include qualitative and mixed methods research to examine the geographies of apiary site management and the demands of competing interests to better understand their impact on Western Australia beekeeping productivity and profitability. Through mixed-methods research this project will develop a process for resolving relevant policy issues (see Gill, 1996) based on sound science: toward developing a decision-making framework and/or decision support tool for honey bee hive sites.

Working with beekeepers, conservationists, and scientists, this project will contribute to the bee hive sites programme of the UWA Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products (CRC-HPB). The wider programme is a new Cooperative Research Centre facilitating the collaboration between industry, researchers and the community to improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of WA’s honey industry. Visit http://www.crchoneybeeproducts.com/research-programs/honey-bee-hive-sites/ and http://www.crchoneybeeproducts.com/training-and-education/post-graduates-optional/project-1-3-whats-the-buzz-managing-competing-interests-in-developing-was-beekeeping-industry/ to find out more about our group and the wider programme. Successful candidates will be working at a leading Australian university and living in a spectacular landscape rich with cultural and biophysical history. The University of Western Australia is one of Australia’s leading research-intensive universities and the premier research institution in WA (www.uwa.edu.au/).

Specific readings that will help inform your thinking include:

Gill, R. (1996) The Benefits to the Beekeeping Industry and Society from Secure Access to Public Lands and their Melliferous Resources (97/026). Honeybee Research & Development Council of Australia, Armidale NSW.

Manning, R. J. G. (1992) Honey production, economic value and geographical significance of apiary sites in Western Australia: final report (from a natural resource questionnaire for beekeepers). South Perth, W.A.: Apiculture Section, Western Australian Dept. of Agriculture.

The scholarship is a $30,000 p.a. tax-free stipend for 3.5 years.

The research team:
Dr Clare Mouat
 is a Geography and Planning Lecturer in the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment (SAgE) with degrees in geography, economics, and planning. Her multi-disciplinary research extends from political economies of community development to political ecologies of healthy environments. Her expertise lies in social sustainability of housing and land-use development at local to metropolitan scales, public policy and governance, community health and well-being, conflict and civility in transformational change. Over her career, her work has emphasised what being in community means for sustainable development and managing conflict in contemporary theories and practices. This project is designed to generate evidence-led policies and practices towards equitable outcomes solving pressing real-world problems where humans/non-humans and their environment interact and compete for space and resources. She is a registered bee-keeper and qualified queen-bee breeder interested in the urban wild, post-humanism, and people.

Dr Bryan Boruff is a Geographer and Senior Lecturer in the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment (SAgE). His expertise lies in the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing technologies to the study of environmental hazards. Over the past decade, his research interests have expanded to encompass a range of environmental management issues including agricultural and renewable energy production, population health, sustainable livelihoods, geographic information delivery, and development of spatially enabled eResearch tools.

How to apply:

The requirements of a UWA PhD and the application process are found at https://study.uwa.edu.au/how-to-apply/lodging-your-application.  Submit your application  by 1 June, 2018 directly to both myself (clare.mouat@uwa.edu.auand Mei Han (mei.han@uwa.edu.au or to any authorised UWA representative).

Your application should include:

  • A fully completed research application form
  • All certified documents as listed on the application form
  • A brief outline of your proposed research project*

Note that we will use our Faculty of Science standard here for 750 words (not the 250 words it says in the application form and online).

We look forward to hearing from interested candidates.

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