About the Trip

Community-Based Marine Conservation in the Gulf of California
Current Trip Dates:

April 16 – May 1, 2017

This is an experiential education course designed to allow students to learn first-hand about “community” and “conservation” and how both come together in the context of the marine environment thus “community-based marine conservation.” To do this, the class creates the conditions so students can interact directly with individuals engaging with community-based marine conservation from a diversity of perspectives. We choose the Gulf of California in Mexico as an illustration because of its prominence as a region of high conservation interest and its history with community-based conservation. Students must read about its culture and natural history before traveling to the region. Once there we visit with fishers, conservation practitioners, tourism operators, marine protected area managers, indigenous people, scientists, and others to understand how they view, practice, inform, and govern conservation. We also visit the places that are the object of conservation, so students can experience first hand the rich cultural and natural history and develop their own understandings of community-based marine conservation.

The class will provide students with an appreciation of the role that different cultural perspectives play in the practice of community-based conservation. Students have the opportunity to confront their own worldview with that of the coastal communities we visit, and consider how different viewpoints challenge the practice of community-based conservation. Students have the opportunity to talk to fishermen when they are fishing offshore or bringing in their catch. In the past we have participated as observers in meetings organized by local conservation organizations, visited with local entrepreneurs engaged in sustainable aquaculture, and talked to government officials in charge of managing marine protected areas and fishing activities.
We read key papers in the literature on community-based conservation and discuss them among our group. Readings allow students to relate global and local perspectives, confront their own understandings with those of academics or practitioners, and find out which of the processes that we are witnessing might not be unique to the particular places and people we interact with. Overall, daily experiences provide students with the opportunity to contextualize the readings in ways that create long lasting colorful impressions. Often, our richest discussions take place in the most informal settings, like around the campfire after dinner or while watching shooting stars and satellites on Tiburon Island.

The class is also designed to expose students to the importance of understanding cultural and natural history of place i.e., the Gulf of California. In the past we have been able to visit beautiful remote islands and discuss their high biological importance for the nesting of entire populations of seabirds. Students have witnessed the rich biological productivity created by wind-generated upwellings in the form of aggregations of thousands of dolphins and seabirds chasing many more sardines, or been surrounded by sperm whales coming to the surface after a 45-minute immersion to feed on squid. Students also have the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions in rocky reefs and discover different forms of life confined in tide-pools in rocky shores. These contexts also facilitate the discussion of what gets conserved? Why? Who gets to decide? What is the role of fishers in biological monitoring for conservation of marine protected areas? What is the role of scientific biological knowledge compared to the local traditional knowledge of fishers and indigenous peoples that have lived in this area for many years?

Past Trip Dates:

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