Reducing the Ecological Impact of Field Research

Authors

  • MICHELLE BEZANSON,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
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  • ROCHELLE STOWE,

    1. Environmental Studies and Science, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
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  • and SEAN M. WATTS

    1. Environmental Studies and Science, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
    2. AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Assigned to the National Science Foundation, Directorate of Biological Sciences, Division of Environmental Biology (BIO/DEB), Arlington, Virginia
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  • SM Watts is an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow assigned to the National Science Foundation. Disclaimer: Any opinion, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material; are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Correspondence to: Michelle Bezanson, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053. E-mail: mbezanson@scu.edu

Abstract

Researchers and students at biological field stations, especially in remote areas, are subject to leaving “footprints,” as we conduct research, work, and live in sensitive ecosystems. These footprints include travel, personal trash and waste, and field equipment (e.g. flagging, tree markers, plot markers, trail markers, monitoring devices, etc.). In this commentary, we argue that the field of primatology's commitment to minimum impact research should be more explicitly and visibly integrated into our ethical protocols with regard to field research and instruction in sensitive environments. We review current ethical codes and potential solutions to reducing our “researcher footprints” while conducting fieldwork. Using Costa Rica as an example, we address how sustainable fieldwork differs among varying cultural contexts and argue that researchers should be made responsible and accountable for how our presence, research, and teaching might impact the environment. We conclude by recommending a set of guidelines to be added to ethical protocols regarding research design, station policies, and the conduct of research and teaching in the field. Am. J. Primatol. 75:1-9, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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