Key elements for communication and strengthening of the relationship: First steps to develop bicultural partnerships for amphibian conservation in New Zealand

Author: Javiera Cisternas – University of Otago, New Zealand

Phillip J. Bishop – Department of Zoology, University of Otago, New Zealand
Jennifer M. Germano – Department of Conservation, New Zealand
Nancy Longnecker – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, New Zealand
Priscilla M. Wehi – Landcare Research, New Zealand

Communication, trustworthiness and understanding are essentials for bicultural partnerships, which are well-recognized tools for biodiversity conservation. New Zealand has opportunities to develop bicultural partnerships, given the legal framework that ensures Māori (New Zealand’s indigenous people) are consulted on management decisions of their treasured species (taonga).

This study analyses the relationship developed between frog-researchers and two Māori tribes (iwi) during a frog conservation translocation. Frog-researchers visited the iwi involved to invite them to collect scientific data and share information about the frogs via booklets, talks and educational activities. Māoriparticipants were interviewed to record elements of their traditional knowledge related to frogs. Moreover, the relationship of the first author with both iwi was recorded through ethnography. This information was used to identify key elements that foster the development of a strong relationship.

Our results suggest that Māori deeply appreciate the opportunity of working together with non-Māori scientists. “It’s quite a privilege to be in the same company as scientists, researchers and philanthropists, … and we encourage those kinds of relationships, … because the knowledge that comes just keeps flowing and it all makes sense” (Interviewee 5).

Furthermore, we identified as an opportunity of sharing knowledge the activity of collecting field data together. “We were walking and touching the plants that covered the trunks in that forest when a Māori representative highlighted to me the fact that the humidity felt in those plants was different between different exposition of the trunk. Afterwards, I included this habitat feature within comparative analyses of the translocation research and resulted in a significant feature related to the humidity conditions suitable for this frog species” (Ethnography first author).

We conclude that respectful communication, including written and face-to-face interactions, are essential for the development of a strong relationship and vital to have in potential future bicultural partnerships.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication