Using ATLAS.ti in Documenting Traditional Ecological Knowledge

July 1, 2017

Dr. Lisa Arensen, from The School for Field Studies, an organization based in Beverly, Massachusetts (United States).  Dr. Arensen tells us about the organization, her own research, and the way in which they applied ATLAS.ti to their work.

Thank you Dr. Arensen for accepting to talk with us today. Tell us a little bit about you.

I am a social anthropologist with a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland).  My PhD research was in post-war resettlement in western Cambodia.  I currently teach environmental anthropology and direct undergraduate students in qualitative field research. Our ongoing studies are of traditional Khmer medicine and knowledge transmission of botanical knowledge, as well as documentation of social and environmental histories with villages located in a national park.

What is The School for Field Studies?

At The School for Field Studies (where I am a lecturer), we offer environmentally focused study abroad semesters for undergraduate students enrolled at North American universities. I teach at the Center for Conservation and Development in the Lower Mekong, which is based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our students do research under faculty direction for one month of each semester. Our research priorities are developed in conjunction with our national and international partners.

My research s focused upon the human and environment nexus in a rural Cambodian community, where the loss of natural resources and declining access to those resources are drivers of livelihood changes and transitions.  My colleagues oversee projects focused on Buddhist environmental ethics, natural resource governance, human-elephant conflict in highland areas, and wetland ecology.

Our research uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, and we lecturers collect the data longitudinally over different semesters, with different student cohorts. Research results are disseminated to our government and non-governmental partners with the overarching objective of increasing their knowledge base and providing useful data for their conservation initiatives.

How are you using ATLAS.ti in your work?

I oversee research projects focused upon documenting traditional ecological knowledge, which over the past three years has been focused on traditional Khmer medicine usage and transmission in villages within Phnom Kulen National park. I also direct oral history projects focused on documenting environmental and social histories, with a particular focus on the impact of the first and second civil war in Cambodia.

My students amass large amounts of interview-based data during their ten days of data collection in the field. I am delighted that they can use ATLAS.ti program to code and analyze their primary data. The software enables them to methodically classify their data into codes and code families, which in turns aids them in discovering themes, analytically comparing and contrasting their findings, and uncovering convergence and divergences in villagers’ experiences and knowledge. I first used ATLAS.ti for my PhD research in 2009 and remain convinced that it is the most sophisticated and well-designed qualitative data analysis software on the market.

Thank you Dr. Arensen and best wishes to you, your students and The School for Field Studies!

You may learn more about Dr. Arensen by visiting The School of Field Studies website here:

Share this Article