In Alaska, we are working with Alaskan scientists as they work with local Inuit and Athabaskan communities to do truly community-driven science blended with Alaska Native knowledge on moose, salmon and berry harvesting. The team started the work by asking communities what they wanted to learn and who wanted to do research together on their chosen research topics. Communities chose to work on wild berry and moose harvesting, creating indigenous place names and stories maps, more sustainable energy production systems and local food systems. The research is led by a community coordinator working closely with a undergraduate or graduate student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
This type of work has many challenges. University professors rarely get credit for working with local communities and thus have a hard time taking this research approach. Communities often do not know what research really is, and they find it relatively low on their priority lists. However, this project shows that research can empower communities to have more of a say in how state and federal programs create regulations that affect their lives. For example, research by the team showed that the timing of moose hunting season needs to be shifted forward by 2-3 weeks. Representatives of the Alaska Dept of Game and Fish may now change the regulation on hunting seasons in response to this finding.
Many of these approaches are so new that we are only just starting to evaluate and improve them. The Alaskan team asked the CCC’s Director to evaluate their research approach because of our long-term work in this area in Colorado, Mongolia and Kenya. We will finish the evaluation in early 2020.