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Toward increased engagement between academic and indigenous community partners in ecological research

Megan S. Adams, Department of Geography, University of Victoria; Raincoast Conservation Foundation; Hakai Beach Institute
Jennifer Carpenter, Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department
Jess A. Housty, Qqs Projects Society
Douglass Neasloss, Kitasoo/Xai-Xais Integrated Resource Authority; Spirit Bear Research Foundation
Paul C. Paquet, Department of Geography, University of Victoria; Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Christina Service, Department of Geography, University of Victoria; Spirit Bear Research Foundation; Hakai Beach Institute
Jennifer Walkus, Wuikinuxv Nation Fisheries
Chris T. Darimont, Department of Geography, University of Victoria; Raincoast Conservation Foundation; Hakai Beach Institute


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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.

Key words

aboriginal; collaborative research; community engagement; ecology; First Nations; indigenous communities; natural science; resource management; social-ecological systems; trust

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087