Day 3: The Old Man and the Survey
The morning breeze awoke me from my cabin at Mount Victory Camp Eco-Lodge. It was another scorching day here at St. Croix, but there was no time to laze around in the shade. After a quick shower and a light meal, our team departed for two local supermarkets. No, we did not go shopping, nor did we go buy fresh fish. We had a greater task at hand.
As part of a field research team, we are tasked with collecting data on people’s seafood preferences at St. Croix, their willingness to pay for fish, and their knowledge and perception on lionfish. We collected data by conducting surveys on local shoppers and tourists. The ultimate aim of the research is to see if it is possible to create a local market for lionfish.
Before we arrived at the supermarket, we stopped by a bakery to load up on snacks. The sweet donuts, however, were not the main source of attention. About 20 meters from our car was a massive iguana, casually sunbathing on a tree. Life in the USVI is as diverse as it gets. There are a plethora of creatures that you would never encounter back at Emory University. As an environmental scientist and biologist, it was truly amazing to see this Iguana camouflaged right next to a bakery.
Although the Pueblo La Reine Supermarket seemed relatively empty from the inside, there was still a constant stream of shoppers that walked in and out of the store. This allowed for us to survey a sufficient number of local consumers. Personally, I had quite a productive day, especially in the morning.
As we already know, lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean. We believe that consumption is a critical component of lionfish control programs. However, there are many barriers to creating this market. Thus, we are conducting these intercept surveys so that we can find out what these barriers are and if they can be overcome.
I was now much more comfortable with surveying (as compared to yesterday) and I think that played a large part in my successes today. I had rehearsed my survey introduction well and I always approached the consumers with a smile. Furthermore, I respected all their answers and decisions, whatever they may be.
Most importantly, I learned to start enjoying my role as a surveyor. I had fun conversing with the local shoppers. It was interesting to hear their stories and to see their viewpoints, like how lionfish would “certainly put you in the graveyard” if you ate it.
My dad always taught me that if you do what you like, you’d do it well. That’s what I tried to do and I believe that that made the biggest difference. I was less tense and I was more approachable. As a result, I completed a higher number of surveys than I did yesterday, I had zero incomplete surveys, and I probably had a lower rejection rate as well. Believe it or not, a single old man managed to change my perception about surveying completely. Beforehand, I always viewed surveying as a burden to people’s lives. We’re taking 15 minutes of their precious time and we’re not giving them any compensation whatsoever. There is a solid chance that these people won’t even know where and how their answers to our survey questions are being put to use and how it will benefit their community in the end. I felt a bit guilty for that.
However, this one old man made me feel ten thousand times better about surveying. After completing my survey, I asked him if he had any questions. He said, “No, I just want to say thank you for interviewing me. I old and I haven’t talked to a young person in such a long time”. He then gave me a fist bump. Those words put the biggest smile on my face. I started to feel as if I was not a burden to the consumers anymore. I was actually kind of doing them a favor, both in the short-run and in the long-run (the research).
After surveying, we were rewarded with the most relaxing swim at the beach. With our energy somewhat replenished, we made our way to Kate’s (a graduate student’s) rental home. We were given time to work on our journals and blogs before we began the daunting task of coding our own surveys. Despite the little progress made on coding, dinner was finally served. We finished the day off on a high by celebrating Jakob’s 21st birthday!