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Individual Highlight

Integrating Research, Education, and Traditional Knowledge in Ecology

The arctic field ecology youth-elder-science camp observing microscopic soil invertebrates. Forest ServiceSnapshot : Integrating research and education is a fundamental goal of research institutions and agencies but specific approaches not widely published in environmental research journals. In this study, Forest Service scientists documented the costs and benefits to the public of engaging researchers, university students and Inuit youth and elders in field studies in the Arctic.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gould, William A.Gonzalez, Grizelle
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 325


Integrating research and education is a fundamental goal of institutions and agencies supporting science because society benefits from a more informed and scientifically literate population. The value of integrating traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in research has been demonstrated in several ecosystems, yet specific approaches and achievements of efforts integrating research and education are not widely published in environmental research journals. One way to address the imbalance between efforts devoted to broader impacts vs. avenues for reporting on these efforts is through the publication of case studies and assessments of integration efforts in journals that reach a research audience as opposed to an education audience. In that spirit, we present as an example an effort integrating an interdisciplinary research project investigating the interactions of climate, vegetation, and permafrost in the study Biocomplexity of Arctic Tundra Ecosystems with a university field course, Arctic Field Ecology, and with indigenous Inuit students and elders. The integration allowed university students and native community members to participate with the research team, drawn by the opportunity to gain education and experience. This participation has had synergistic benefits with the research agenda and diversified the pool of stakeholders involved in the research. The educational component provided a wider degree of participation in the biocomplexity study than would have occurred otherwise and enhanced the research output of the study through the efforts of students and instructors. Fifty percent of the participants in what was primarily a research effort received educational benefits. The long-term impacts of a more diverse research team are less tangible but we hope positive in terms of broader impacts.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Donald A. Walker, and Chien-Lu Ping, Institute of Arctic Biology and Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, Palmer Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Palmer, AK, and the Itasca Biological Station, University of Minnesota.