Long-Term Field Studies: Positive Impacts and Unintended Consequences
Strier, Karen B
American journal of primatology 2010 Sep; 72(9): 772-8
Long-term field studies of wild primates can have far-reaching impacts that transcend their contributions to science. These impacts can benefit not only the study animals, study areas, and local human communities, but they can also have unintended, potentially negative consequences. Examples of some of the positive impacts from the Northern Muriqui Project of Caratinga, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, include contributions to conservation efforts on behalf of this critically endangered species, capacity building through the training of Brazilian students, and employment opportunities for local people through our collaboration with a locally administered NGO that is facilitating ecotourism, education, and reforestation programs. Some concerns about unintended consequences of the research include the effects of our trails and trail traffic on surrounding vegetation and other aspects of the environmental "footprints" that both long-term researchers and short-term visitors may leave. In addition, although precautions against potential health risks from routine exposure to human observers are now standard protocol, little is known about the other ways in which our long-term research presence can affect the primates' experiences or alter their perceptions of their social and ecological environments. Risk analysis, which weighs both the positive and negative impacts can provide useful perspectives for addressing the ethical considerations that can arise during long-term field studies.
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