Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Geology

Committee Chair

David Cochran

Committee Chair Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 2

Jerry Bass

Committee Member 2 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 3

Mark Miller

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology


In rural societies where urbanization and modernization are contributing to rapid growth, changes in land use can both reflect and bring about broader changes within a community. This study seeks to investigate changes in land use in the Imbabura valley of Ecuador from the perspective of the local inhabitants. To accomplish this, three data collection techniques were employed: repeat photography, ethnographic interviews, and archival research. Repeat photography involves re-photographing historic photographs from the original site. A combination of 35 historic photographs taken in the 1950s were re-photographed during the summer of 2015. The resulting repeat photo pairs were used in conjunction with semi-structured ethnographic interviews, which were conducted in participants’ homes, during road-side conversations, and through take-home questionnaires. Information collected through archival research provided additional data that complimented the photo pairs and ethnographic interviews. The combination of repeat photography, ethnographic interviews, and archival research provided a unique window into the perceptions and memories of the local residents and their views of the changing land around them. Urban centers in the Imbabura valley have expanded haphazardly as a result of rural-to-urban migration. This expansion has been detrimental to nearby agricultural lands and has placed pressure on soils and crop production, as well as agricultural livelihoods in general. Recent inheritance laws have created limitations on the ways land owners can divide land amongst their heirs. This, along with generational differences in land-use priorities have all contributed to changes in land use over the last 65 years.