Erica Oberndorfer, PhD

Image Erica Oberndorfer
Cultural Botanist

Cultural botany, plant ecology, field botany, northern and Indigenous food systems, cultural contributions to biodiversity

Current research and/or projects

Supporting Makkovimiut Food Systems, 2021-2026

  • In partnership with the Inuit Community of Makkovik (Nunatsiavut), building locally relevant systems for soil development, cold climate growing, and enhancing appik (bakeapple; Rubus chamaemorus) harvest

Inuit-led agriculture in Gjoa Haven, 2020-2023

  • Supporting the cultivation of Inuit cultural plants in controlled growing environments in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

Vegetable production in the North, 2019-2021

  • Testing systems for cold climate growing using season extension technologies in Goose Bay, Labrador

Biodiversity monitoring, 2019-current

  • Tracking introduced agricultural weed species in Labrador 

Research and/or project statements

Arctic and boreal regions have food systems that are uniquely adapted to local conditions, and are shaped by the long-term practices of Indigenous Peoples. Approaches to food systems research that resonate in this context will listen and respond to Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge. I work to advance interdisciplinary research partnerships that are respectful of local context, support biodiverse and sustainable food systems, and are collectively relevant for all partners.

Professional activities / interests

Indigenous Science Liaison Office, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2021-current

Interdepartmental Indigenous Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (I-STEM) Cluster, Government of Canada, 2020-current

Coastal Biovigilance Network, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2019-current

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program - Terrestrial Steering Group, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, 2018-current

Associate Editor, Journal of Ethnobiology, 2018-2020

Education and awards

Post-doctoral Fellowship, Labrador Institute, 2016-2018

Ph.D., Geography, Carleton University, 2016

M.Sc., Biology, Saint Mary's University, 2006

B.Arts Sc. (Hons.), McMaster University, 2000


Robin P. Armstrong Memorial Prize for Excellence in Indigenous Studies, Canadian Association of Geographers, 2018

Barbara Lawrence Award, Society of Ethnobiology, 2017

Graduate Research and Innovative Thinking Award, Carleton University, 2015

Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship, Canadian Northern Studies Trust, 2014

International experience and/or work

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program - Terrestrial Steering Group, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, 2018-current

CAFF-IASC Fellow, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna - International Arctic Science Committee, 2018-2019  

Key publications

  1. Aronsson, M., S. Heiðmarsson, H. Jóhannesdóttir, T. Barry, J. Braa, C.T. Burns, S.J. Coulson, C. Cuyler, K. Falk, H. Helgason, K.F. Lárusson, J.P. Lawler, P. Kulmala, D. MacNearney, E. Oberndorfer, V. Ravolainen, N.M. Schmidt, M. Soloviev, C. Coon and T. Christensen. (2021). State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna International Secretariat, Akureyri, Iceland. ISBN 978-9935-431-94-3.
  2. Oberndorfer, E., Broomfield, T., Lundholm, J., & Ljubicic, G. (2020). Biodiversity and cultural landscapes: Inuit cultural practices increase small-scale biodiversity and create novel vegetation communities in Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). Biodiversity and Conservation 29:1205-1240.
  3. Winters, N. (2020). Reflections from Them Days: A Residential School Memoir from Nunatsiavut. E. Oberndorfer (Ed). Inhabit Education Books. ISBN 978-1-77450-207-5
  4. Oberndorfer, E. (2020). What the blazes?! A people's history of fire in Labrador. The Journal of the North Atlantic, 40:1-16.
  5. Oberndorfer, E., Winters, N., Gear, C., Broomfield, T., Ljubicic, G., & Lundholm, J. (2017). Plants in a “sea of relationships”: Networks of plants and fishing in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(3):457-477
  6. Oberndorfer, E., & Lundholm, J. (2009). Species richness, abundance, rarity and environmental gradients in coastal barren vegetation. Biodiversity and Conservation 18(6):1523-1553.
  7. Oberndorfer, E., Lundholm, J., Bass, B., Coffman, R., Doshi, H., Dunnett, N., Gaffin S., Köhler M., Liu, K., & Rowe, B. (2007). Green roofs as urban ecosystems: ecological structures, functions and services. BioScience, 57(10):823-832.