Putting Social-Cultural Values on the Map: Incorporating Local Knowledge into Ecological Restoration Assessments

Authors: Scott Hemmerling*, The Water Institute of the Gulf, Monica Barra, The Water Institute of the Gulf
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Qualitative Methods, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Coastal Restoration, Participatory Mapping, Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Coastal residents and community members possess valuable local environmental knowledge - in-depth understandings of the environment derived from life experiences, family, or other cultural traditions outside of a formal school-related education and training. This information is often geographically explicit and can exert powerful influences on behavior. This paper will reflect on the opportunities and challenges of conducting qualitative research on ecosystem-based restoration and building community resilience in coastal Louisiana. The methods presented represent advances in rigorous, replicable, and accessible forms of collecting local knowledge to assess and monitor the social value of ecological restoration, providing information to agencies and communities about social and cultural factors that need to be considered in the restoration planning process. The presentation will draw from experiences working as members of a multi-disciplinary research team, while addressing the methodological challenges of 'fitting' qualitative data into quantitative frameworks. For example, hybrid methodologies such as participatory mapping encourages community member participation in sharing ecological knowledge and perceptions of a given area. Empirically derived information on residents' perceptions of the values - positive, negative or otherwise - of restoration projects can be estimated by social costs-benefits analyses in the material experiences of groups. These methods are a tangible way to evaluate the outcomes and shortcomings of ongoing coastal restoration projects against projected results, and make adjustments that respond to the real-time needs of impacted communities.

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