Participation in Ecosystem-Scale Research: A Case Study of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

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Carol Carpenter
Essay Abstract: 
Over the past few decades, the marine survival rates of salmon have declined drastically in the Salish Sea. In 2012, U.S. nonprofit Long Live the Kings and Canadian nonprofit Pacific Salmon Foundation came together to form the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project (SSMSP). With over 150 participating scientists from federal, state, county, academic, nonprofit, and tribal sectors, the SSMSP conducts research to figure out the science behind salmon population declines. This thesis uses interviews with project participants to examine what factors influence participation within the SSMSP. For each group (e.g. academic, tribal), the impacts of factors are classified as positive, neutral, or negative. It is argued that the SSMSP is successful because the factors that unite participants, a common goal and a skilled facilitator, overpower those that create differences. An analysis of tribal participation is used to further argue that these uniting factors must have the strongest impact on the most marginalized groups. This work concludes that as conservation research tackles larger landscapes with more diverse voices, a successful project requires that conscious work must be done to identify and manage the factors impacting participants.