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Biosphere reserves are ideal places to conduct research because research is needed and residents are usually willing to cooperate if the research is beneficial to their community.  When you are planning to do research in a biosphere reserve, it is important to keep the ‘rights of the studied’ (a term coined by Peter Kingsmill of the Redberry Lake biosphere reserve) in mind.

Here are some ideas to think about as you get started.  If you have more ideas, please send them to us and we will add them.

·        Be respectful of people’s time.  Rural residents often juggle multiple responsibilities as volunteers to create a vibrant community to live in.  (A teacher and parent may also be a soccer coach who sits on the Regional Parks and biosphere reserve boards, helps put on the weekly Bingo night, and organizes several local festivals throughout the year.)So when you ask for people’s time, be flexible and willing to work around their schedule.  And it never hurts to buy them coffee and send them a thank you note either!

·        Ask the biosphere reserve committee if you may propose your research to ascertain whether you research can be useful, what you need to do for data collection to be feasible, and what the community benefits and outcomes might be.  Would they like you to make a presentation at one of their meetings?  Should you introduce yourself and your research to the local city councils?  Who should you approach and how? 

·        Be open to changing your research design, or even questions that you will address, to make a meaningful contribution to community needs.

·        One way you may find useful for introducing yourself and asking for feedback is to create a Research Factsheet. 

The Factsheet is a document that introduces you are, what you are doing in the community, and how you plan to carry out your project that invites people to engage in your research.  Here is a template for designing your own one-page research factsheet

The idea is to write up a summary of your research on one page that is easily accessible by the general public.  I used this sheet as a calling card and posted it on public and school bulletins to make myself and my research known, so that by the time it came for me to ask people for interviews they might have seen my picture already and had a sense of who I was and what I was doing.  Or, if they didn’t, I had something to give them!

By reaching out to people, both you as the researcher and community members benefit because residents are able to identify what you want to do, and then they can decide whether or not they can help you.  Or, if they cannot help you, they may just be interested in your results. Either way, you as a researcher and residents benefit.

Some biosphere reserves have developed their own protocols for research being conducted in their region:

CBRN Coordinators: Sharmalene Mendis-Millard and Julia McCleave