This blog follows the development of the research project, “The Return of Native Nordic Fauna.” The project has been funded by the Swedish research council Formas through a Young Researcher Grant to Dolly Jørgensen for 2013-2016.

The purpose of this project is to investigate how certain animal species have been identified both culturally and scientifically as belonging in the Nordic region and how that identification has shaped historical conservation measures, particularly decisions to reintroduce the species. Reintroduction projects attempt to reestablish a species in a place where it has become locally extinct. While biologists have attempted to standardize the definition of reintroduction, they have not necessarily questioned the fundamental issue of history at the heart of reintroduction: Why have people decided that a particular species should be in a place—that it is native there—and thus worthy of return?

The project aims to expose the role of ‘nativeness’ in past and ongoing species reintroduction efforts in Sweden and Norway. By opening up the black box of reintroduction and exposing the motivations for them, this project will be an important humanities contribution to ongoing scientific work. The project will investigate three main research questions:

  1.  How are species that have become locally extinct and then reintroduced framed as ‘native’?
  2. In what ways are species intentionally reintroduced versus accidentally reintroduced treated differently?
  3. What roles do a species’ history and interaction with humans play in making a particular species ‘Swedish’ or ‘Norwegian’ or ‘Nordic’?

The answers to these questions will help us to rethink the cultural and scientific framing of reintroduction efforts, both in Sweden and Norway and more broadly across the world where the practice of reintroduction continues to gain a foothold.