As conservation scientists, hailing from a strictly ecological sciences background, most of us face the problem of applying qualitative and quantitative methods, usually related to social sciences, in our conservation research questions. Often our research and course-work doesn’t leave us with enough time to dwell deeply within the social sciences discipline. But to grapple with many issues highly relevant to conservation science such as fire ecology, hunting studies, grassland ecology, studies on forest products and urban ecology, demand engagement with the human aspects of conservation which in turn necessitates the use and application of social science methods.
This short-workshop on social science methods is conducted specifically for use in the field of conservation by researchers who belong to or come from an ecological /biological sciences background, just like the organisers. It aims to provide a practical and hands-on techniques related to social science research methods that will be useful for practitioners of conservation science.
The workshop will be divided into three parts:
In the first section, we will introduce the different concepts and jargons that one typically comes across in social science research methods. It will include the importance of social sciences for conservation and how to define objectives and come up with relevant methodology and sampling strategy.
Section two will look at a range of methods, both qualitative and quantitative, with a focus on participant observation, designing questionnaires, interviewing techniques, participatory methods in resource mapping and ethnobotanical methods for documenting local environmental knowledge and change. With numerous examples, we will discuss as to when and where these techniques can be applied, along with the etiquettes of conducting fieldwork with communities, ethical considerations and relationship-equation between researchers and the community members. All the while, we will try to pepper them with our own bitter-sweet experiences from the field.
We will end section two by introducing analytical techniques including basic statistical concepts, which can be used to analyse the ‘social science’ data collected through the described methods. Specifically we will be discussing data processing and statistical analysis for quantitative and qualitative data.
In the third section, we will guide the students to implement the two main methods that we will be introducing in the 1st and 2nd section of the workshop. The participants will be divided into two groups and each will be required to think of a research question and then design an appropriate technique to collect data which might enable them to satisfactorily answer that question. The workshop will end with the student groups sharing their individual and collective experiences during the exercise.