Orou Gaoue

Department of Botany
ogaoue [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Research in my lab is at the interface of population ecology and ethnoecology and uses mathematical models, field observations and experiments as well as ethnographic methods to study plant-human interactions. I am interested in basic ecological questions with implications for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. My research emphasizes the role of environmental stochasticity on the response of ecological systems to perturbation. In terms of environmental stochasticity, I focus on both stochastic temporal variation in the ecological conditions in which plants occur and stochasticity in the behavior of human (or any agent) who interact with these resources. I tend to focus on plant populations. However, I am developing new projects to investigate the effects of perturbation and fragmentation on plant-insect mutualism. Here in Hawaii, the focus of the lab will be on the population viability analysis of endangered plants.

A second aspect of my research is related to the ethnoecology of human response to plant feedback from previous interactions (e.g. harvesting, fire). Local communities (e.g. Fulani in West Africa) often have detailed ecological knowledge of the plants they harvest, yet some of these species are overharvested. Questions then arise about how do local communities use their ecological knowledge of plant feedback to make decision about future harvest. Understanding this mechanism is important from theoretical and conservation standpoints. We study how the transmission and aquisition of local ecological knowledge is affected by the social networks, and how this knowledge is used (or not) to develop sustainable (or not) management of plant resources. Answers to these questions are critical to projecting future interactions and identifying the role that conservation programs can play in facilitating the sustainable use of non-timber forest products.