Research partnerships with local communities: two case studies from Papua New Guinea and Australia

Abstract

Partnerships between scientists and local communities can increase research capacity and data delivery while improving management effectiveness through enhanced community participation. To encourage such collaboration, this study demonstrates how these partnerships can be formed, drawing on two case studies in coral reef ecosystems in very different social settings (Papua New Guinea and Australia). In each case, steps towards successfully engaging communities in research were similar. These included: (1) early engagement by collaborating organizations to build trust, (2) ensuring scientific questions have direct relevance to the community, (3) providing appropriate incentives for participation, and (4) clear and open communication. Community participants engaged in a variety of research activities, including locating and capturing fishes, collecting and recording data (weight, length and sex), applying external tags, and removing otoliths (ear bones) for ageing and elemental analysis. Research partnerships with communities enhanced research capacity, reduced costs and, perhaps more importantly, improved the likelihood of long-term community support for marine protected areas (MPAs).

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Acknowledgments

In Manus, we are grateful to the Pere, Locha, Tawi, and Mbunai communities for their hospitality, assistance, and permission to work on their reefs. In the Keppel Islands, we thank CapReef and the recreational fishing community for their support and assistance. Insightful reviews and suggestions for improvement on manuscript drafts were provided by PL Munday, KR Ruddle, R Walter, AT White, and two anonymous reviewers. Funding was provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

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Correspondence to G. R. Almany.

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Communicated by Ecology Editor Prof. Peter Mumby

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Almany, G.R., Hamilton, R.J., Williamson, D.H. et al. Research partnerships with local communities: two case studies from Papua New Guinea and Australia. Coral Reefs 29, 567–576 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-010-0624-3

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Keywords

  • Coral reefs
  • Community-based management
  • Local knowledge
  • Participatory research