Land-based communities need problem solvers who can address ecological degradation by bridging gaps between community and outside knowledge systems. Through our experience working for the Watershed Program of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, we have wrestled with the challenge of making ecological research more useful to tribal communities, particularly those that have become highly skeptical of conventional research. Simply importing or exporting knowledge does little to solve long-term ecological problems, which instead require an active dialogue between community and outside knowledge systems to help local institutions evolve with environmental changes. To fulfill these roles, individual need skills in listening, speaking and thinking from both community and outside worldviews. Unfortunately, university education often isolates students from their community rather than preparing them to help solve problems within the social and cultural setting of their community. Participatory research, in which members of the community help to conduct and guide a research project, provides valuable learning opportunities for individuals seeking to develop research skills. In particular, participatory research helps participants to consider the ethical implications of their work; the social setting in which decisions are made; and tactics for improving communication, managing conflict, and engaging more community members in the research process. While the roots of participatory research extend from the social and management sciences, incorporating this approach into natural science research is a sensible way of integrating ideas and resources from beyond the community with traditional ways of learning about the land.
Long, Jonathan; Endfield, Delbin; Lupe, Candy; and Burnette, Mae
"Battle at the bridge: Using participatory approaches to develop community researchers in ecological management,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 12, Article 10.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol12/iss1/10