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Theories of the deep: combining salience and network analyses to produce mental model visualizations of a coastal British Columbia food web

Jordan Levine, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Michael Muthukrishna, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University; Department of Social Psychology, London School of Economics
Kai M. A. Chan, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Terre Satterfield, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08094-200442

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Abstract

Arriving at shared mental models among multiple stakeholder groups can be crucial for successful management of contested social-ecological systems (SES). Academia can help by first eliciting stakeholders’ initial, often tacit, beliefs about a SES, and representing them in useful ways. We demonstrate a new recombination of techniques for this purpose, focusing specifically on tacit beliefs about food webs. Our approach combines freelisting and sorting techniques, salience analysis, and ultimately network analysis, to produce accessible visualizations of aggregate mental models that can then be used to facilitate discussion or generate further hypotheses about cognitive drivers of conflict. The case study we draw upon to demonstrate this technique is Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. There, an immanent upsurge in the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) population, which competes with humans for shellfish, has produced tension among government managers, and both First Nations and non-First Nations residents. Our approach helps explain this tension by visually highlighting which trophic relationships appear most cognitively salient among the lay public. We also include speculative representations of models held by managers, and pairs of contrasting demographic subgroups, to further demonstrate potential uses of the method.

Key words

British Columbia; food webs; mental models; network analysis; salience analysis

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087