My first field trip for this project was a short 3 day visit to the Donegal Islands last November. It was a bumpy start as the small plane from Dublin to Donegal took off and landed in fairly windy conditions at Carrickfinn Airport. A fisherman I already knew from a previous research project had arranged meetings with some of Donegal Islands fishermen during my stay. As a researcher who spends a lot of time talking and listening to people in small coastal communities, I am always hugely appreciative of the time people give me. My time is usually funded. Most of the time, theirs is not. Before I arrived, the fishermen asked my contact “What does she want to talk to us about?”. “I don’t really know”, he said, “and to be honest with you, I don’t think she really knows at this stage either”. It’s always difficult to convey to people what I want to do in this initial stage of the research – open listening is not something we’re used to, and a researcher is supposed to have questions she wants answered. Even though I’ve been doing this kind of research for more than 10 years now, I’m still nervous about these initial meetings. What if they don’t have anything to say to me? At the same time, experience tells me that it doesn’t take long for people to find the stories they want to tell me. I start from there. (more…)
CO-SUSTAIN is a two year research project (October 2018-October 2020) funded by the EU H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and hosted by the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities in the School of Histories and Humanities, Trinity College Dublin.
This new research project is about human-environment relationships. I’m exploring this broad theme within the context of small-scale fisheries in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Cork island groups off the west coast of Ireland. I’ll be working closely with IIMRO, the Irish Islands Marine Resources Organisation, which represents many of the small-scale fishers on these islands. I’m a marine social scientist. In the broadest terms, I study the relationships between people and the sea. I have been working with island fishing communities (mainly in Scotland) since 2010. I’m a qualitative social scientist which means I look for rich detail rather than trying to quantify issues. If there’s a conflict, I probably won’t be able to tell you how many people are for and how many are against something, but I’ll be able to tell you about the stories underlying the conflict, where they may have come from and how they might be helping or hindering ways forward.