Marine mammal ecology and health: finding common ground between conventional science and indigenous knowledge to track arctic ecosystem variability
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Marine mammal ecology and health: finding common ground between conventional science and indigenous knowledge to track arctic ecosystem variability

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  • Journal Title:
    Environmental Research Letters
  • Description:
    Marine mammals respond to, and thereby reflect, changes in Arctic ecosystems that are important both to practitioners of conventional science (CS) and to holders of indigenous knowledge (IK). Although often seen as contrasting approaches to tracking ecosystem variability, when CS and IK are combined they can provide complementary and synergistic information. Despite exceptions, ecosystem-focused CS is often spatially broad and time shallow (1000 s km, decades) while IK is comparatively narrow spatially and time deep (10 s km, centuries). In addition, differences in how information is gathered, stored, applied and communicated can confound information integration from these two knowledge systems. Over the past four decades, research partnerships between CS practitioners and IK holders have provided novel insights to an Alaskan Arctic marine ecosystem in rapid transition. We identify insights from some of those projects, as they relate to changes in sea ice, oceanography, and more broadly to marine mammal ecology and health. From those insights and the protocols of existing community-based programs, we suggest that the strong seasonal cycle of Arctic environmental events should be leveraged as a shared framework to provide common ground for communication when developing projects related to marine mammal health and ecology. Adopting a shared temporal framework would foster joint CS-IK thinking and support the development of novel and nonlinear approaches to shared questions and concerns regarding marine mammals. The overarching goal is to extend the range and depth of a common understanding of marine mammal health and ecology during a period of rapid ecosystem alteration. The current focus on CS-IK co-production of knowledge and recent inclusion of marine mammals as essential variables in global ocean observatories makes this an opportune time to find common ground for understanding and adapting to the rapid changes now underway in Arctic marine ecosystems.
  • Source:
    Environmental Research Letters
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    CC BY
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