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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 159-175

On Using Mental Model Interviews to Improve Camera Trapping: Adapting Research to Costeño Environmental Knowledge

1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
2 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
3 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; James Madison College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Correspondence Address:
Christopher A Jordan
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.115725

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In many regions, including our study area along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, it is necessary to apply traditional or local environmental knowledge in biological research projects based in Western scientific knowledge. In such projects, it is important for both researchers and local people that the integration of the two knowledge systems: a) produces scientifically rigorous reports, and b) justly benefits local people. As every knowledge system is unique, there is no universal list of best-practices that will attain these two goals. To discover the best-practices for a particular project, it is necessary to develop the unique relationship between the two knowledge systems and related research methodologies based on personal experience. To gain this experience in the context of our camera trapping project that integrates traditional environmental knowledge, we undertook mental model interviews with local people. Interview results revealed the environmental knowledge our local assistants are most likely to share with us. We used this information to refine our sampling methodology to ensure scientifically rigorous results, and to appropriately engage locals to ensure the project yielded locally desirable benefits. This or a similar technique could be used by other researchers in comparable contexts to yield more comprehensively beneficial results.

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