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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Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay

My name is Lindsey Carver, and I am a rising senior at the College of William & Mary.  This summer I will be conducting research to support the writing of my undergraduate honors thesis in Anthropology.  I am focusing on the community of Guinea in Gloucester, Virginia.  Watermen from Guinea have fished the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, a major source of oysters and blue crabs, for centuries.  However, the bay has seen a decline in oysters and crabs in recent decades.  Over-harvesting in the past, decline in water quality, and the spread of oyster diseases has contributed to this decrease.  Maryland and Virginia have instituted regulations to protect the populations of oysters and blue crabs, affecting the fishermen’s ability to make a livelihood on the water as they did in the past.

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