Degree completed in 2021.

Linking interactions between cultural and biological diversity on the Pacific coast of North America in the face of climate change


Academic Profile

I completed both a BSc and an MSc at the University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where I studied plant ecology and taxonomy, and ethnobotany. With this research, I was interested to learn about how Indigenous people classify and utilize the plant species around them, and how methods from Indigenous knowledge and Western science can be used conjointly to learn about plant ecology and taxonomy. It is often found that Indigenous people recognize different taxonomical categories than in Western botany, and I was interested to see how these delineations express cultural importance of species. During this research, several Indigenous elders mentioned their worry that a changing climate would drastically effect their ability to harvest resources and navigate around their territories, since they live in a coastal ecosystem that can be quite sensitive to environmental shifts.

To investigate this further, in my DPhil I have decided to learn from Indigenous elders in several coastal communities in northern BC and southern AK to understand how environmental shifts, due to a changing climate, is being perceived and adapted to by local peoples, and in turn how these environmental changes are effecting cultural and biological diversity, and changes to resource harvesting and movement around the landscape. To narrow this subject, I will be using the focus species of Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca), an important cultural and ecological keystone indicator species. In addition to recording Indigenous knowledge, I will also be collating data obtained from weather stations and aerial photographic timeseries to measure how the environment has changed from a western scientific perspective. These two knowledge 'lenses' will allow me to investigate this issue in an interdisciplinary, mixed-methods manner.

Throughout my research, I have worked in a close partnership with several Canadian Indigenous knowledge holders. These mentors have been instrumental in showing me how to look at my research from a multitude of ways, and by learning about the relationship between ecosystems and people from both an Indigenous and a Western science viewpoint. I attempt to approach my research in a wholestic and scientifically robust manner.

Research Interests

  • Folk Taxonomy
  • Western Scientific Taxonomy
  • Ethnoecology
  • Ethnobotany
  • Environmental change
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Biological Diversity
  • Landscape Perception

Academic Background

  • Present, DPhil at The Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment (candidate), University of Oxford.
  • 2013, M.Sc. at The School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2013.
  • 2010, B.Sc. in a double major in the Department of Biology and the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Current Research

Current Teaching

  • 2010-2013 - Running tutorials and labs at the University of Victoria, multiple terms
  • ES 240 (Ecological methods)
  • ES 423 (Traditional Land and Resource Management)
  • Biol 190A and 190B (First year Biology)
  • Biol 324 (Botany of Land Plants)
  • Ethnobotany, field course (Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre)


  • Comberti, C., Thornton, T.F., Wylliede Echeverria, V. and Patterson, T. (2015) Ecosystem services or services to ecosystems? Valuing cultivation and reciprocal relationships between humans and ecosystems. Global Environmental Change 34: 247-262.
  • Wyllie-Echeverria, S., Wyllie-Echeverria, V.R., Churchill, A.C. and Cox, P.A. (2006) Further evidence for seed size variation in the genus Zostera: exploratory studies with Zostera japonica and Zostera asiatica. Aliso, 22: 243-247.
  • Wyllie de Echeverria, V.R. (2008) What's the difference? Fruit morphology in crabapple (Malus fusca) from 3 habitat types around Bamfield, BC. Unpublished report, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, B.C., 17 pp.
  • Britton-Simmons, K.H., S. Wyllie-Echeverria, E. K. Day, K.P. Booth, K. Cartwright, S. Flores, C.C. Garcia, T.L. Higgins, C. Montanez, A. Rames, K.M. Welch and V. Wyllie Echeverria. (2010) Distribution and Performance of the Nonnative Seagrass Zostera japonica across a Tidal Height Gradient on Shaw Island, Washington. Pacific Science, 64(2): 187-198.
  • Routson, K.J., G.M. Volk, C.M. Richards, S.E. Smith, G.P. Nabhan and V. Wyllie de Echeverria. (2012) Genetic variation and distribution of pacific crabapple. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, 137(5): 325-332.
  • Wyllie de Echeverria, V.R. (2013) Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca) on the North Coast of British Columbia: Knowledge and Meaning in Gitga'at Culture. University of Victoria, M.Sc. Thesis.

Presentations at conferences

  • 2009- "What's the difference? Fruit morphology in crabapple (Malus fusca) from three habitat types around Bamfield, BC", Pacific Estuarine Research Society, Bellingham, WA.
  • 2010- "Seagrass flora as a cultural resource: A global story of diverse use over time" (co-author with S. Wyllie-Echeverria; talk), Society of Ethnobiology, Victoria, BC.
  • 2011- "Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca (Raf.) C.K. Schneid.): Knowledge and Meaning in Gitga'at Culture" (poster), Society of Ethnobiology, Columbus, OH.
  • 2012- "Learning about moolks (Malus fusca Raf.): Ethnoecological knowledge about intraspecific variation from Gitga'at elders" (poster), Society of Ethnobiology, Denver, CO.
  • 2013- "Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca Raf.): Knowledge and meaning in Gitga'at culture" (talk), Society of Ethnobiology, Denton, TX.