Engagement between Academic and Indigenous Communities in Ecological Research

Ecological research, especially work related to conservation and resource management, increasingly involves social dimensions. Concurrently, social systems, composed of human communities that have direct cultural connections to local ecology and place, may draw upon environmental research as a component of knowledge. Such research can corroborate local and traditional ecological knowledge and empower its application. Indigenous communities and their interactions with and management of resources in their traditional territories can provide a model of such social-ecological systems. As decision-making agency is shifted increasingly to indigenous governments in Canada, abundant opportunities exist for applied ecological research at the community level. Despite this opportunity, however, current approaches by scholars to community engaged ecological research often lack a coherent framework that fosters a respectful relationship between research teams and communities. Crafted with input from applied scholars and leaders within indigenous communities in coastal British Columbia, we present here reflections on our process of academic–community engagement in three indigenous territories in coastal British Columbia, Canada. Recognizing that contexts differ among communities, we emerge with a generalizable framework to guide future efforts. Such an approach can yield effective research outcomes and emergent, reciprocal benefits such as trust, respect, and capacity among all, which help to maintain enduring relationships. Facing the present challenge of community engagement head-on by collaborative approaches can lead to effective knowledge production toward conservation, resource management, and scholarship.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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