Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and ecological science: a question of scale.

Gagnon, C. A., and D. Berteaux. 2009. Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and ecological science: a question of scale. Ecology and Society 14(2): 19. [online] URL:

This article does a fantastic job of pinning down the reality of combining Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and scientific knowledge, a task I have heard referred to as "seeing with two eyes." The authors have done a great job of outlining some specific aspects of two species' (arctic foxes and snow geese) ecology and then collecting TEK from Inuit peoples and reviewing scientific literature as well. They discuss the relevance of the different kinds of knowledge through the lens of temporal and spatial scale. In some ways their conclusion may seem obvious: where the different knowledges cover different scales, their knowledge is complementary, and where they overlap, they tend to cross-validate each other. But to actually have demonstrated this is quite a feat. They also do point out that they've focused in this study on the factual part of TEK and not the spiritual or values-based parts. As it is not the focus of their paper, I thought they did a good job of raising the question of how to incorporate those parts of TEK in management processes and decisions, as well as taking some preliminary steps in the discussion and conclusions to suggest how one might proceed.

I was excited to read a paper where they have actually successfully compared the different kinds of knowledge; I think this is a nice bridge between all of the science-based things we've read in previous weeks and the social questions we are about to address head-on. In a similar way, I like that this paper raises the issue of how knowledge and values are related, and as both of those things will inform restoration efforts, I think this is a great jumping-off point for discussion. In addition, I think it is good to hear something about the knowledge of stakeholders who have historically been voiceless: having an indigenous perspective in the mix when we discuss social barriers to restoration is valuable in my opinion.

Photo Credit: Arctic fox from Wikimedia Commons: Photo by Ansgar Walk, his caption: "Artic fox (Alopex lagopus) in Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut, Canada"

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