Integrating Traditional and Scientific Knowledge through Collaborative Natural Science Field Research: Identifying Elements for Success


  • Henry P. Huntington
  • Shari Gearheard
  • Andrew R. Mahoney
  • Anne K. Salomon



traditional knowledge, fieldwork, collaborative fieldwork, ecology, black leather chiton, Katharina tunicata, sea ice, collaboration, Alutiiq, Inuit


We discuss two recent projects to examine the role of collaborative environmental fieldwork both in research and in the interactions between academically trained researchers and experienced local residents. The Bidarki Project studied black leather chitons (Katharina tunicata) in the lower Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Its conclusion that chiton declines are part of a serial decline of intertidal invertebrates drew on collaborative fieldwork, archaeological data, historical records, and interviews with local residents. The Siku-Inuit-Hila Project studied sea ice in Barrow, Alaska; Clyde River, Nunavut; and Qaanaaq, Greenland. Quantitative data from locally maintained observation sites were supplemented by knowledge exchanges among hunters from the communities and by discussion in local working groups to develop an understanding of the physical dynamics and human uses of sea ice at each locale. We conclude that careful planning and preparation, along with the effort to build strong personal relationships, can increase the likelihood that collaborative fieldwork will be productive, enjoyable, and rewarding.