Working in urban areas creates a lot of challenges when it comes to gaining access to private lands. Contributor Jane Remfert shares her experience from the field with her tips on how she navigates working on private lands.
Posted by: Jane Remfert, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Sampling in urban field sites involves certain benefits and obstacles. My field site is literally at my doorstep, but is also at the doorsteps of a hundred residents of the Richmond, VA area. Gaining access to private property for sampling can be a hurdle since sampling on public lands do not always give sufficient coverage across the gradient of urban landscapes.
To collect seeds and leaves from flowering dogwood trees on private property, I have been utilizing postcards to ask for permission. These postcards let the property owner know who I am, what I’m researching, and are post marked so they can send permission back to me. Gaining permission prior to embarking on collecting trips allows me to collect seeds while people are at work or away from their homes. Although I occasionally get small notes of support, the problem, of course, is that response is still fairly low.
Ringing doorbells remains key. Thankfully, most residents that are home are very supportive and I’ve been able to collect samples across the city. Sometimes people are surprised to learn the tree that flowers in their yard every spring is a dogwood. Sometimes people are interested in my research and sometimes people nod and smile while secretly wondering what in the world I’m doing.
Do you encounter challenges when doing urban fieldwork? Have you found a great way to gain access to private land? Let us know in the comments below. Or, even better, sign up to be a contributor and write a post of your own!