Call for PhD Studies Opportunity and information about this 5-year SSHRC research project. Deadline December 1, 2023.

Link to Sensory Acts website

Project Description

Animals, plants, and humans share an ancient history of nonverbal communication. In post-industrial societies, such as our own, fine-tuned interspecies communication is rapidly being lost, co-effecting unchecked exploitation of our planet’s nonhuman worlds. The project’s study of nonverbal interspecies communication will explore shared somatic modalities such as posture, gesture, scent, and sound, as well as metaphysical awareness in animals, plants, and humans, pushing current debates in the nonhuman turn, animal and plant studies, and the growing field of interspecies communication. We also seek to raise awareness in the general public for our own species’ potential to effectively communicate with living beings by heightening our sensory awareness. We choose the Northern Hemisphere as our laboratory for its unique historical and ethnographic record of nuanced nonhuman-human entanglements.

Our objectives: We aim to record intangible and material multispecies cultural heritage to better understand the needs, intentions, and life worlds of other-than-human beings. Based on our team’s longstanding experience, we will use ethnographic methods (including sound and film) to explore new ways of understanding embodiment, immersion, and experiential apprenticing. Our objective is divided into three parts, based in guiding research questions:

1) “How do animals, plants and humans engage the senses to establish shared meaning?”
2) “How do differences in time/space perception (e.g. life rhythm) feature in interspecies communication?”
3) “What learned nonverbal communicative acts have people observed in wild and domestic animals and plants?”

Our team: Alex Oehler, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Regina (Principle Investigator), has 10+ years of experience in Siberian multispecies ethnography with hunters and herders, as well with Inuit hunters of the Western Canadian Arctic. Sarah Abbott, Associate Professor in the Department of Film at the University of Regina (co-applicant) has research focused in public and multispecies ethnography, Indigenous and Western colonial plant-human relations, and ethnographic film. The project’s international group of collaborators focus on Mongolian Studies, animal migration, and satellite tracking, linguistics and animal communication, interspecies sensory studies, extinction studies, voice and sound recording, equine sensory research, and wildlife ecology.

Why now: Isolating human and nonhuman life worlds is problematic not only for those lacking speech (animals and plants, including trees/forests). Our anthropocentric way of life poses a growing challenge for humanity itself: We are losing our ability to recognize the intent of nonhumans (Weston 2017), while driving an unsustainable disequilibrium between production and consumption. Re-learning our species’ ancient methods of communicating with the sentient world has transformative potential for sustainable long-term planning in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, food distribution, and wildlife conservation. Our research seeks to strengthen those who are at the forefront of academic, political, and social change toward a more equitable world in which all sentient beings can participate in the co-construction of a future that will sustain all our relations for many generations to come.

Weston, K., 2017. Animate planet: making visceral sense of living in a high-tech ecologically damaged world. Duke University Press.

Call for PhD Studies Opportunity — Deadline December 1, 2023
University of Regina

Applications welcome until the position is filled.

The Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance (MAP) at the University of Regina (Saskatchewan, Canada) seek a PhD student to research nonverbal interspecies communication in the Circumpolar North, specifically the Inuvialuit Settlement Region within the Northwest Territories (NT), Canada. The research process and outcomes of the successful applicant will be affiliated with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded interdisciplinary project, Sensory Acts: More Than Human Communication in the Circumpolar North (SACTS), overseen by Dr. Alex Oehler and Dr. Sarah Abbott.

The successful candidate will conduct approximately 11 months of embedded, collaborative ethnographic fieldwork alongside Inuvialuit hunters, trappers, herders, mushers, and/or gatherers on the Land and in communities of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Research and/or outcomes may be arts-based. Funding for the successful applicant is available in the form of 60,000 CAD over 3 along with travel, per diem, and fieldwork costs. Additional funding may be available through internal and external sources. One position is available. The application deadline is December 1, 2023. Commencement of study will be Fall 2024.

More information about the position and application process is available here or at

Image credit: “Sensory” by benjaflynn is marked with CC BY 2.0.