Self-portraits give voice to vulnerable Cambodian fishing communities

A study that used photos taken by participants to spark conversation reveals firsthand accounts of how climate change, land use and dams on the Mekong River are threatening the future of the communities dependent on those ecosystems.

The study, which brought together Cornell researchers, Cambodian fishers and Cambodian researchers, used a methodology called photovoice. With photovoice, study participants take photos that researchers then use to facilitate interviews and group discussions during which the subjects share their life experiences and perspectives.

“Voices of the most vulnerable resource users are poorly integrated into traditional scientific knowledge,” said Kathryn Fiorella, assistant professor in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine and first author of the study. “Photovoice is a methodology that goes very quickly to the heart of what people are thinking. And these perspectives are fundamental to understand interactions between livelihoods and environmental change, and ultimately underlie successful resource management.”

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