Research Summary

This summer, I completed research for my Anthropology senior honors thesis entitled Learning and Living on the Chesapeake Bay: Education and Issues of Conservation, Economy, and Community in Guinea, Virginia.  I began by getting a sense of the physical boundaries of the Guinea community, located in Gloucester County, by driving around the area.  I conducted research on the lifestyles of the people and the ecology of the surrounding waters.  I also volunteered as a counselor at the Watermen’s Museum (located in Yorktown, Virginia, across the river form Guinea) Pirate Camp.  I decided to contribute half a day each week to the camp in order to learn more about the science and people of the Bay.  As such, my duty was to teach elementary school children the basics of blue crab anatomy, how the crabs are harvested, and the concept of a sustainable harvest.  In addition to learning about blue crabs, one of the key species harvested in the Chesapeake Bay, volunteering at the museum allowed me to tour the exhibits describing the past, present, and potential future of the watermen’s way of life.

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The Summer May Have Ended, but the Research Process Continues…

Not that school is back in session, it would be convenient to say that my research has ended and I can simply begin the writing process.  However, anthropological research is an iterative process, and my project continues to evolve.  While I will begin the writing process over the course of the semester, I will also continue to conduct interviews.  In addition, I am going to attend the Guinea Jubilee, a celebration of life and culture in Guinea Neck, at the end of the month.  The fact that this event occurs in September proves the fact that summer research does not always fit nicely into seven weeks.  While much can be accomplished during that time, an anthropologist can never know everything about the community he or she studies.  I am fortunate that Guinea lies close to Williamsburg, allowing me to still meet with community members in person.

Trip to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Since I have become increasingly interested in the relationship between regulators and watermen during the course of my project, I attended a meeting of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the governing body responsible for enacting the fishing regulations that affect the Guinea community (at least the ones that are not federally mandated).  The meeting provided some insight into the process.  I was able to witness a commercial waterman who lives in Guinea speak during the public comments portion of the meeting, as well as experience deliberation on time limits for commercial blue crab fishing, a regulation very pertinent to my topic.  As far as the scientific aspects of fisheries issues are concerned, a VIMS scientist gave his annual report on submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chesapeake Bay.  I found his discussion of the VMRC’s efforts to work with haul seiners who work near an SAV sanctuary in the Bay to come up with an agreement to both preserve the plants and the watermen’s ability to fish in that area very enlightening.

Research is a Process!

As I have been completing the interviews for my project, the fact that research is a process has definitely become evident.  For one thing, my carefully labelled and categorized informed consent forms and interview questions do not fit every person that I interview.  One watermen that I interviewed no longer works on the water commercially, and he only did so part-time.  Another one not only works on the water, but has also had experience as a scientist and has taken part in the regulatory process.

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Beginnings of the Research Process

At this point, I have not really been able to formally begin my research, as I had some trouble submitting information to the Protection of Human Subjects Committee.  My project has now been approved, and I am definitely prepared to go through that process if I ever need to again!  I have, however, been involved in some related activities, including volunteering at the Waterman’s Museum.

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