Social-Ecological Research and M&E

In our research and monitoring & evaluation, we generally take a Design Thinking approach to bring a human-centered (also known as user-centered) mindset together with systems thinking, critical thinking, and mindfulness.

Our approach is grounded in over 11 years of experience in conducting social-ecological research on conservation issues, processes, and projects, with substantial overlap with the sustainable development sector. The lead on this, Dr. Tara Sayuri Whitty, has a strong background in general ecology (including tropical terrestrial ecology, but primarily coastal and ocean systems) and international conservation, with extensive experience in transdisciplinary research, integrating social and natural science methods and frameworks.

We take research ethics very seriously, and are committed to ensuring that our work aligns with the principles of our collaborators and clients and respects the rights and dignity of all participants.

Main Topics & Approaches

Marine Megafauna Conservation

Focus: Bycatch in small-scale fisheries

This huge threat to marine megafauna lies at the complex interface of communities and coastal ecosystems, and is tricky – but criticall important – to study. Work in this area includes:

  • Rapid Bycatch & Socioeconomic Assessments, using household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions
  • Local Ecological Knowledge surveys to assess presence, trends, cultural ties, and threats to marine megafauna
  • Assessment of the social & governance drivers and context of fishing effort and bycatch, as part of a “Conservationscape Approach”
  • Identifying spatial and temporal overlap between fishing effort and marine megafauna habitats
  • Tailored development of bycatch assessment toolkits grounded in project/organization goals and capacity

Communities & Conservation

Focus: Small-scale fisheries, Stakeholder perspectives, Social processes

Conservation and management are social processes, and meaningful inclusion of stakeholder perspectives, needs, and ideas is critically important. Work in this area includes:

  • Stakeholder perspectives of planned, ongoing, or previous conservation and management efforts/projects
  • Local Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Use surveys to assess trends, threats, uses, and local importance of local ecosystems
  • Journey Mapping and interviews on experiences of groups within communities, including gender and intersectional issues of inclusion, agency, and communication
  • Participatory mapping, Participatory Rural Appraisal
  • Development of research toolkits on small-scale fisheries characterization and community perspectives

Mixed Methods
Monitoring & Evaluation

Focus: Action-to-impact pathways

Evaluation, adaptation, and accountability are necessary for projects and sectors to improve effectiveness. We meld quantitative, indicator-based approaches with rich qualitative assessments to better understand how actions lead to impacts. Approaches include:

  • Most Significant Change: participatory, story-based evaluation
  • Scenario Analysis to elicit informed ideas on future project outcomes based on current pathways
  • Results Chain analysis, Causal Link Monitoring, and Contribution Analysis
  • Elucidating and examining Theories of Change
  • Indicator-based evaluation against logical frameworks
  • Development of indicators and M&E toolkits

Related Projects & Posts

Journey Mapping: A research tool for empathy

As a conservation researcher whose work focuses on the interactions between conservation efforts and communities, a critically important part of my job is to better understand people.

Design Thinking & Conservation

With thoughtful and responsible use, Design Thinking can substantially contribute to more effective, equitable, and ethical conservation practices.

A Website.