Diverse Ways of Knowing in Water Quality Conservation in North Carolina
Diverse ways of knowing have been recognized by scholars in many disciplines to contribute creative perspectives and novel problem-solving approaches. In the environmental sciences, those dependent on natural resources and working daily with those resources are in one of the best positions to observe and learn from subtle changes in the environment. In the coastal marine and estuarine environment, these experiential knowledge holders are the fishers and their families. In North Carolina, these fishers live in historic villages and, with scientists and policymakers, serve as the downstream stakeholders in watershed management. These three stakeholder groups all have perspectives to contribute to research and management of water quality in the watershed. This dissertation starts by documenting definitions and perspectives of water quality from these three stakeholder groups, establishing the base of information from which future research and management takes place. It then specifically addresses the details of negotiating co-production of knowledge through an ethnographic account of a collaborative research project investigating water pollution. The process of information sharing was highlighted during this process by a facilitated workshop asking participants to reflect upon their collective understanding of water quality more broadly and to plan a research project resulting from a new shared, understanding. The third component of my investigation of different ways of knowing uses North Carolina's Fishery Resource Grant program, which funds collaborative research between fishers and scientists, as a case study of an institution supporting co-produced knowledge about water quality and how the structure of collaboration in funded projects affects the success of the program both scientifically and socially. Together, the three chapters tell a story about the diverse forms of knowledge regarding water quality and how they might work together to better understand the causes and effects of water quality as well as tailor solutions to fit this better understanding. Though the story is of one case, specific to water quality and the coastal communities that depend on it, the story is also one of few optimistic cases in environmental science.
co-production of knowledge
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