Two weeks ago, I revealed that massive changes were coming to my life. Now that I have finished all of my papers, I am finally ready to make the announcement. I might have an opportunity to spend this coming summer conducting research in the Rupununi region of Guyana, and I am going for it.
For those who are not aware, Guyana is a South American country just East of Venezuela. It has a diverse population, lush natural savannahs, and extensive tropical rainforests. I have long dreamt of going there, but had not dared to imagine that it might happen so soon. But I will not be traveling there for fun.
If everything works out, I will be performing the field work for my master’s thesis in Guyana. I will be staying in the village of Yupukari, where the Caiman House has graciously offered to host me. While there, I will be studying people’s beliefs about jaguars. This is an important topic, as prior studies have found participants’ tolerance for large predators to be influenced by their beliefs about the species in question (Inskip et al., 2016; Carter, Riley, & Liu, 2012; Slagle, Zajac, Bruskotter, Wilson, & Orange, 2013). A PhD candidate who has been studying jaguars in Guyana for several years also indicated that it might be helpful to better understand residents’ cultural and spiritual beliefs about jaguars. But it will not be easy.
There are several challenges with this potential research. First of all, I will be living in an area that is notably different from anything I have experienced. Second, there are a host of permits I will have to obtain in order to begin the project. I will need to get my research approved by the Guyanese Environmental Protection Agency, obtain permission to enter each indigenous village from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, and acquire letters of consent from the Village Councils of each village I intend to enter. Lastly, there is the ever present issue of funding.
Despite these obstacles, I am going to give it everything I have. I plan to overcome the first hurdle by carving out as much time in the field as I can. By spending the summer and much of the fall in Guyana, I hope to give myself enough time to adapt to my surroundings. As for the permits, there is a faculty member at Humboldt State who studies fungi in Guyana. He has described many species that are new to science, and you can read about his work here. I am hoping he will be able to help me navigate the permitting process. The Iwokrama International Center (IIC), a Guyanese NGO that focuses on rainforest conservation, has also been helpful in this regard. But none of this will matter if I cannot raise enough money.
That is where you come in. After much deliberation, I have decided to fund as much of this research as possible through a GoFundMe campaign. My reasons for this are many. For one thing, this blog gives me a platform to publicize such a campaign. In addition, I want to explore lesser used avenues for funding conservation research. Websites like GoFundMe open the door for “Bernie style” fundraising efforts: meaning those that rely on multiple donations from ordinary people. Finally, using a GoFundMe campaign gives everyone reading this a chance to get involved in my research. Any good that comes from it will occur because of you, since you will be the ones who make it possible. Of course, I will freely share my findings with everyone here.
I will construct my GoFundMe page over winter break, and will send out a notification when it is complete. Right now my goal is to raise $10,000, although it is difficult to tell exactly how much I will need. I will keep none of that money: I will donate everything I do not use to local NGOs in Guyana.
This will not be an easy project. But it is my dream, and I am going to go for it. I hope you will help me make it possible.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.