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Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Science: Methods and Applications

Huntington, Henry P.



Ecological Applications



Advocates of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) have promoted its use in scientific research, impact assessment, and ecological understanding. While several examples illustrate the utility of applying TEK in these contexts, wider application of TEK-derived information remains elusive. In part, this is due to continued inertia in favor of established scientific practices and the need to describe TEK in Western scientific terms. In part, it is also due to the difficulty of accessing TEK, which is rarely written down and must in most cases be documented as a project on its own prior to its incorporation into another scientific undertaking. This formidable practical obstacle is exacerbated by the need to use social science methods to gather biological data, so that TEK research and application becomes a multidisciplinary undertaking. By examining case studies involving bowhead whales, beluga whales, and herring, this paper describes some of the benefits of using TEK in scientific and management contexts. It also reviews some of the methods that are available to do so, including semi-directive interviews, questionnaires, facilitated workshops, and collaborative field projects.

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