Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Resource Management

Committee Chair

Jennifer Lipton

Second Committee Member

Kathleen Barlow

Third Committee Member

Michael Pease


The Área de Conservación Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo (ACRCTT), located in Loreto, Peru, protects 420,000 hectares of the Amazon basin. In 2009, the ACRCTT received formal government recognition after three decades of advocacy and conservation work by resident communities. Local resource users who live a subsistence lifestyle possess sophisticated Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) that can be used to identify which constituents of biodiversity are culturally relevant. This information can help resource managers develop an operational definition of biodiversity. Self-directed photography is a research method that allows participants the opportunity to direct data collection and empowers them to visually communicate their perceptions. This article demonstrates how self-directed photography can be used to access TEK and facilitate the development of holistic resource management plans that advocate local stewardship. Thirty-three participants (a 47% sample of households) in the rural Amazonian communities of Buena Vista and El Chino on the Tahuayo River, were given cameras and two weeks, and asked to photograph the people, places, or things that were most important to them. Participants sorted their photographs in order of relative importance and then provided a narrative description of each image. The images identified as being the ten most important, a total of 320 photographs, were considered for analysis. Plants and trees represented 63% of these images, with 74 distinct species identified.


This thesis won the 2016 Dale and Mary Jo Comstock Distinguished Thesis Award.