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Co-producing conservation and knowledge: Citizen-based sea turtle monitoring in North Carolina, USA

Myriah L. Cornwell and Lisa M. Campbell
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 42, No. 1 (February 2012), pp. 101-120
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23210230
Page Count: 20
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Co-producing conservation and knowledge: Citizen-based sea turtle monitoring in North Carolina, USA
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Abstract

In this paper we examine a volunteer-based sea turtle management project run by the state of North Carolina, USA, to explore collaborative conservation and citizen science. Through this case study, we unpack assumptions from the volunteerism literature and apply theories of co-production to understand how citizens evaluate science and produce knowledge while conducting wildlife monitoring. We demonstrate that the project maintains a healthy give and take between the state and the volunteers as they work together to manage endangered sea turtles. When tensions do emerge over specific issues such as nest relocation, volunteers engage with scientific debates and apply their knowledge gained through the project to push their priorities. While volunteers understand the state's position on conservation science, they counter with evidence from scientific literature and locally situated observations informed by an alternative view of human—environment relationships and specific goals for the project. Overall, we find that there is little evidence to support the notion that knowledge is 'co-produced' in the project. Instead, the combination of volunteer control over the local spaces of conservation and the state's need for volunteer labor results in the co-production of conservation practice.

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