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Can indigenous peoples be relied on to gather reliable environmental data?
Date:10/13/2011

scientists at detecting animals and their signs.

"This is the first study at a really large scale that shows that consistently valid field data can be collected by trained, indigenous peoples and it can be done really well," Fragoso said. "We have measured the error and discovered that 28 percent of villages experienced some data fabrication. This originated from about 5 percent (18 out of 335) of technicians fabricating data, which may not be much different than what occurs in the community of scientists."

"The indigenous technicians are no more corrupt, sloppy, or lazy than we are," he said, noting that every year papers published in peer-reviewed science journals have to be withdrawn because of falsified or inaccurate data.

In all, the technicians walked over 43,000 kilometers through the wild, recording data. That's once around the world and then some. They logged 48,000 sightings of animals of 267 species. They also recorded over 33,000 locations of fruit patches on which various species of animals feed.

Working with indigenous technicians enables researchers to gather far more data over a much larger area than would otherwise be possible, Fragoso said. Such data can be used by governments, scientists and conservation organizations to get an understanding of remote areas, from tropical forests to the Arctic tundra.

Fragoso is optimistic about how the results of the study will be received by the scientific community.

"I have presented this study to some pretty unreceptive groups, such as at scientific meetings, but by the end of the presentation audience members are either convinced, or at least they doubt their argument, which is a major achievement in itself," he said.

"One thing about the scientific community if you have enough solid data and the analysis is well done, there is very little you can argue against."


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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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