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Integration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge with Big Data & Retaining Indigenous Students
Presenter: Marco Hatch, Western Washington University
Abstract: One common barrier to STEM engagement in underserved and underrepresented communities is a feeling of disconnection from mainstream science. This attitude is rooted in a history of researchers and decision-makers collecting, analyzing and interpreting data without engaging community members as true partners and equals. Spanning this boundary between ecological research and communities impacted by environmental change is foundational to moving toward a more equitable future focused on solutions that serve under-resourced communities facing the brunt of environmental degradation and climate change. Great strides have been made toward the goals of democratizing conservation science, empowering local communities to engage with mainstream research on a level playing field. However, these initiatives are subject to a few common pitfalls such as, projects that do not fully account for the social-cultural context of the community, projects that fail to understand the foundationally different worldview of Indigenous communities. These pitfalls can lead to partnerships with the unstated goal of “making them like us”, where the actions of the partnership are structured such that the decision-making power and authority is retained within the STEM disciplines, and if community members want access to that authority, they must conform their worldview to mainstream science. We believe that spanning this boundary between local communities and mainstream science will increase social justice, increase the relevance of conservation science, and open new opportunity spaces for all involved. Central to the success of this vision are boundary spanners.