Study to help define ‘sense of place’

  • Thursday, April 4, 2013

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium is funding a social-science research project developed by Annette Watson, Ph.D., assistant professor of human-environment geography in the College of Charleston’s Department of Political Science. For this project, titled “Coastal Livelihoods and the Local Sense of Place,” Watson and her colleagues are studying three different populations — commercial, subsistence and recreational fishermen — in rural McClellanville, suburbanizing Awendaw and urbanizing Mount Pleasant. The researchers will use innovative interviewing techniques and quantitative analysis to help long-time residents and newcomers identify special fishing places that they want to protect and find commonalities for land-use planning purposes.

Residents of these three rapidly changing communities in northern Charleston County share a respect for the health of local waterways. “We’re trying to get a holistic picture of what people are thinking about the coast and its waterways and what they want for the coast,” said Watson.

The project aims to determine the senses of place experienced by life-long residents; spatially measure access to coastal resources historically used by life-long residents; determine the relationship between long-term residents’ economic practices and their environmental values; test whether different community identities can find commonalities in their values; and develop common indicators that community leaders can use to track changes through time.

Additional growth is predicted to occur along this corridor of Highway 17 known as the “Sewee to Santee” region, and this research will address similarities in social-ecological relationships to assist community leaders with land-use planning.

Watson and her colleagues are actively seeking long-time residents and newcomers who want to participate in the study. To learn more about the project or volunteer to participate, contact Watson at 843-953-5864 or watsonam@cofc.edu.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium seeks to enhance the practical use and conservation of South Carolina’s coastal and marine resources to foster a sustainable economy and environment. The consortium is a member of the nationwide network of 33 Sea Grant College programs, and is supported by the State of South Carolina and the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program, U.S. Department of Commerce. For more information about the consortium, visit www.scseagrant.org.

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