Building Local Knowledge by Studying Nature Together

Jim Crocker
4th March, 2024

Building Local Knowledge by Studying Nature Together

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Tasmania, landholders and researchers teamed up for wildlife conservation
  • The WildTracker project combined local knowledge with scientific data
  • This collaboration led to a new model for effective conservation research
In Tasmania, Australia, wildlife conservation on private lands is a critical issue, as these areas are home to a variety of species threatened by human activities such as climate change, invasive species, and habitat destruction. The WildTracker project, led by the University of Tasmania[1], tackles this challenge by harnessing the power of collaboration between landholders and researchers to improve wildlife management and conservation efforts. The study highlights the importance of local knowledge in conservation, recognizing that private landholders possess valuable ecological insights gained through daily interaction with their environment. This approach is in line with recent research advocating for a deeper understanding of host-pathogen interactions, as seen in the case of the Tasmanian devil and the transmissible cancers threatening its survival[2]. The recognition of local knowledge aligns with the broader trend in ecosystem management, which now emphasizes the complexity of ecosystems and the need for multisector decision-making and adaptive management to address "wicked problems"[3]. WildTracker's methodology is a blend of citizen science and professional research. It involves 160 Tasmanian landholders who contribute to the collection of data on wildlife through the use of wildlife cameras and sound recorders. This empirical data is complemented by workshops, questionnaires, and interviews, which provide a qualitative dimension to the landholders' experiences and practices. By integrating these diverse data sources, the project not only gathers information on wildlife ecology and habitat conditions but also on the social dynamics that influence conservation actions on private lands. The project's transdisciplinary nature allows for the merging of local socio-ecological knowledge with the theoretical and applied knowledge of scientists. This is crucial for developing a comprehensive understanding of natural resource management, as it acknowledges the multiple dimensions of landholder capacity and the need for participatory monitoring and evaluation[4]. Through their engagement in WildTracker, landholders become active participants in the research process, contributing to the development of a model of collaborative conservation research that is both locally relevant and scientifically robust. The findings from WildTracker are significant for several reasons. First, they demonstrate the value of incorporating landholder knowledge into wildlife management, acknowledging that those who interact most with the land can offer indispensable insights. Second, the study provides a template for other regions and conservation challenges, showing how collaborative research can lead to more effective and sustainable conservation outcomes. Finally, the project underscores the potential for citizen science to empower individuals and communities, fostering a sense of stewardship and collective responsibility for the environment. In conclusion, the WildTracker project by the University of Tasmania serves as an exemplary model of how local knowledge and scientific research can be integrated to enhance wildlife conservation on private lands. The study exemplifies a shift towards more inclusive and adaptive approaches to managing complex ecological systems and could inspire similar initiatives worldwide, contributing to the global effort to preserve biodiversity in the face of ever-increasing anthropogenic pressures.



Main Study

1) Local Ecological Learning: Creating Place-based Knowledge through Collaborative Wildlife Research on Private Lands.

Published 10th November, 2023

Related Studies

2) Tracing the rise of malignant cell lines: Distribution, epidemiology and evolutionary interactions of two transmissible cancers in Tasmanian devils.

3) Ecosystem management as a wicked problem.

4) Participatory monitoring and evaluation to aid investment in natural resource manager capacity at a range of scales.

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