Avenarius to speak present ‘local voices’

East Carolina University anthropology professor Christine Avenarius will present “In their own words: Local voices on the Outer Banks economy and the environment,” at 6 p.m. March 6 at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese, N.C.

Avenarius will present an analysis of community voices she collected over the summer months of 2013 with a team of five graduate students from ECU’s sustainable tourism and anthropology programs. They listened to 208 Dare County residents and their suggestions for suitable measures for coastal management and the long-term health of the local economy.

The project Restarting the Dialogue About Coastal Management Policies: Understanding Perceptions of Environmental Change Among Residents of the Outer and Inner Banks is funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and will continue its conversations with local residents in Inner Banks counties surrounding the Albemarle sound over the summer months of 2014.

This community engagement project was inspired by the 2012 North Carolina state moratorium on adopting a rate of sea level rise for regulation purposes that revealed a seemingly widespread divergence in perceptions of environmental change among local stakeholders and scientists.

Avenarius became interested to learn what local residents of the Outer and Inner Banks have noticed about their natural environment, what language they use to identify continuity and change, how they explain and reason about their observations, and what suggestions they have for local policy development and resource allocation.

Conversations with a quota sample of 208 participants from different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds each lasted about 75 minutes and included open ended questions, pile sort and sentence completion tasks.