Verena Kulak

What role do spiritual beliefs play on the way we relate to natural environments? Is there a level of spiritual engagement when we consider technological solutions to environmental protection?

These are some of the questions that brought me to the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development due to its interdisciplinary approach. Also at SEDRD we are privileged to work closely with various Indigenous groups who have a socially recognized sense of community between humans and the natural environment. My research interests result from backgrounds in Biology, Earth Sciences, Human Health and Art History, which altogether brought me to explore ideas in ethnobotany, collective knowledge, and systems thinking. Associated with these are concepts of sustainability, resilience, traditional knowledge and non-human persons. Unescapably originating from a human perspective, these questions and ideas have pushed me into uncomfortably yet rewarding new research boundaries seeking to understand our many and sometimes underappreciated connections with the natural world.

Under Dr. Brunet’s supervision, I am developing a project focusing on the interrelations between Indigenous spirituality and medicinal plant restoration initiatives in Southern Ontario. A major guiding question relates to the perception and implementation of plant technology such as tissue culture as a viable strategy for ecosystem restoration while promoting spiritual values and the traditional use of medicinal plants.