Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has been proposed as a basis for enhanced understanding of ecological systems and their management. Scientists and natural resource professionals increasingly value TEK but often struggle to incorporate it into their research and management activities. The “Paper Birch in the Great Lakes” project is a collaborative effort to incorporate TEK into research and natural resource management of paper birth trees, also known as white or canoe birch trees. American Indian birch bark gatherers, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission ecologists, and Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station came together to develop protocols for sampling birch bark to understand trends in the Great Lakes. Their research shows a steady decrease in the paper birch resource in the Great Lakes since 1980 and dramatic declines within the areas of Ojibwe, or Chippewa Indian, land ceded to the United States by the treaties of 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854. The tribes reserved hunting, fishing, and gathering rights on these lands. Lessons learned from this multi-year, multi-stage project provide: (1) a model for future targeted inventory efforts; (2) an example of how to build successful partnerships that incorporate TEK into natural resource science and management; and (3) data and trends on paper birch and birch bark resources that can be used by tribal gatherers, ecologists, and natural resource managers to develop strategies to manage paper birch in the Great Lakes.