Randi Jeannine Pokladnik, Ph.D., is a 2008 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • Alesia Maltz, PhD (Committee Chair)
  • Thomas Webler, PhD (Committee Member)
  • Mary Hufford, PhD (Committee Member)


ginseng, poaching, folk crimes, commons, interventions

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Publication Date



Ginseng, panax quinquefolius, is a perennial plant found in the understory growth of mesophytic forests of Appalachia. Illegal harvesting of the plant from both wild and cultivated populations has become very problematic for public land managers and private landowners engaged in cultivation of the species. Techniques aimed at curtailing the incidents of poaching have only been moderately successful. Given the economic value of the plant, its cultural significance, and the dramatic decrease of wild plant populations, it has become increasingly important to address this problem.

Several studies have linked illegal wildlife harvesting to economic problems, inadequate policies or laws, and social issues. In addition, some research has been conducted that investigates the prevalence of animal poaching by using various theories, such as the neutralization theory, differential association theory and folk crimes. However, no single study has specifically examined plant poaching using these theories as a framework or involved the insights of all stakeholders experiencing this problem. Using previous studies of wildlife poaching typologies as a template, this project will examine the problem of ginseng poaching in central Appalachia to produce an understanding that is inclusive of the many stakeholder perspectives.

The main goal of this research is to use historical methods, interviews, and Q methodology to study how individuals (stakeholders affected by the poaching) understand the causes or motivations behind poaching and how they perceive the effectiveness of current poaching interventions. The two main questions under investigation are: What are stakeholders' beliefs about the causes of ginseng poaching? How do stakeholders perceive the effectiveness of current methods of intervention used to decrease poaching incidents? It is hoped that the results of this study will help inform policy makers, law officials, and public land managers, as well as the ginseng gatherers and growers of Appalachia involved in sustaining the ecological, economic, and cultural integrity of this species.