Challenges in the field

Fieldwork is plenty exciting, The opportunity to learn – what you are trying to research, as well as the methods involved in doing so – is one I am immensely grateful for (in addition to being able to wander through the forests of southern Belize). However, there are always some unexpected bumps in the road.

Resting space away from all the blood-sucking flies. From a night spent with the rangers out in Golden Stream Corridor Preserve

Resting space away from all the blood-sucking flies – from a night spent with the rangers out in Golden Stream Corridor Preserve

As I’m conducting an in-depth study with a relatively small sample size, the ‘quality’ of the data I produce and the methods I use to learn of the traditional forest-related knowledge held by the rangers became far more important than I previously assumed (and frighteningly so). My first few weeks of fieldwork involved acquainting myself with the lives and work of the rangers, including trips into the forest on patrol and to monitor biodiversity. These trips were not only great for the bird-watcher in me, but allowed for the rangers and I to become more familiar with each other. After beginning with interviews, and about a third of the way through my fieldwork (and halfway through my time here), I began to panic – I was afraid I had reached an impasse and unsure of whether the data I’d produce would be able to uphold my thesis. After a few email exchanges with my supervisor (and plenty of Belizean chocolate!), I did all I could to refine my methods and powered through.

Last week, after conducting the in-depth interviews and a preliminary analysis, I facilitated a workshop with the rangers. The primary purpose of the workshop was data verification, but it included some additional inputs and discussions on how they would want the data shared and recognised. Personally, the workshop was very rewarding with the group dynamic adding immense value to the data. It also emphasised the trust we had built between us, which for me was the greatest gift.

Promptly after (fortunately?), I fell ill. All better now, and my next challenge will involve developing an appropriate analytical framework to assist in deciding how and what of the data produced will be used in my thesis. It still feels like I have a long way to go, but admittedly, this is a wonderful road to travel on.

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