Field Day #2: Sunday, May 22, 2016
Hello, St. Croix!
Well, welcome to our first full day of field work here on beautiful St. Croix! We arrived yesterday afternoon, but the real work started this morning at 7:30 sharp. We piled into our long-suffering group van and trundled off down the mountain to our very first fieldwork locations: Plaza Extra and Stop & Shop, both grocery stores.
Grocery store field work: one large step for mankind, one small step for delicious fieldwork snacks.
In case the mechanics of our fieldwork hasn’t been detailed here yet, I’ll give you the lowdown. This Maymester class is running intercept consumer surveys, as part of a larger research project looking at the possibility of creating a market for lionfish in the USVI. If you’ve read some of the earlier blog posts, you’ll know how important it is that we find a good strategy to deal with the lionfish problem, and creating a commercial fishery/market for lionfish could be that solution we’ve been looking for. We think it sounds like a good idea, but we really don’t have any idea at all unless we come down to the islands and talk to the people who would be creating and participating in such a market. Would fishermen be willing to catch enough lionfish? Would consumers be willing to buy it? These are the kinds of questions we need answered to figure out if a market for lionfish will work.
Another team is talking to the fishers here on St. Croix (shout out to Kate, Paulita, and the awesome grad students from University of Florida!), so we’ve been tasked with talking to the consumers. Which brings me back to the intercept consumer surveys we carried out today, which is really just a fancy way of saying that we walk up to people and ask if we can talk to them about seafood. If they agree, we give them our preferences survey, and listen to what they have to say.
The Dats (Data)
So let’s talk surveys! It was an interesting challenge to create a survey that gets at lots of topics and opinions, but isn’t overly long. I’m sure you’ll remember how long we spent practicing it and honing the questions before we actually brought it out into the field! We ended up using a variety of question styles and techniques, which made for a pretty interesting survey.
It starts with a general “grand tour” question: we ask about seafood in St. Croix, which allows the surveyee (Is that a word? It’s far too awesome to let go in either case) to just tell us anything they have to say about the seafood scene before we move on. It’s designed to help both the surveyor and the surveyee relax and chat a bit before we get down into the nitty gritty. Next we move on to some statements, for example “Frozen fish is just as good as freshly caught fish” and the surveyee states how much they agree with that statement based on a four-point scale. Here we have a card to give the surveyee so they have a visual distinction between the options.
The four-point scale: the surveyor’s friend since time immemorial (or at least since this morning).
After the statements, we ask the surveyee when, where, and how they most recently caught raw fish to cook at home and cooked fish in restaurants. To aid with this question, we have a handy dandy map for people to show us where they purchased fish most recently. This helps us to create a dynamic image of the currently existing market for fish on the island.
An as-yet-unmarked map to the best fish on the island.
This is it, team. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for! The rest of our question deals with lionfish: what do people know about it, have they ever eaten it, and another set of “how much do you agree” statements. The star of this section, though, is our willingness to pay question. Here, we give consumers a set of figures for lionfish to purchase, either to cook at home or as an entrée from a restaurant (depending what they expressed interest in), and ask them if they would be willing to pay. The importance of this willingness to pay (WTP) question cannot be overstated! These consumer answers tell us a lot about whether a lionfish market is viable on St. Croix, because if the consumer is unwilling to pay for lionfish, the fishers won’t be willing to go fish for it. This data is critical towards finding the tipping point at which consumers would or would not be willing to buy a lionfish and help fuel a (delicious) lionfish market. We finish up the survey with a few demographic questions, and our helpful consumer goes on their way, having made their invaluable contribution to science!
Now that we’ve talked about the surveys, I’ll just take a brief moment to talk about our strategy in giving these surveys. I mentioned at the beginning that we went to grocery stores today, which seemed like a good place to talk to food consumers. We split up into two groups to double our coverage and reach people in slightly different areas of the island. Today we focused on the area close to Frederiksted, which is on the western side of the island, but tomorrow we’ll be heading over towards Christiansted and the eastern side to talk to consumers over there. To help our team look more official, we donned team shirts, which look very snazzy in a group arrangement.
We want to make sure to talk to a wide array of people, so we’ll be going to a variety of local markets, grocery stores, hotels, and beaches and talking to as many people as we possibly can. Today, we managed to get over 80 surveys between the two teams, which is incredibly encouraging! We weren’t expecting to be so productive, but we’re hoping we can continue the trend. Cheers to the team – great work today, everybody. I’m proud to be working with all of you and with all the wonderful people we meet here on the USVI!