Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Catching up with Traditional Ecological Knowledge


Traditional ecological knowledge—the knowledge developed and maintained by local communities over many generations about their natural environment—is increasingly appreciated as fundamental to solving environmental problems. In this seminar, we will explore some of the cutting-edge research on traditional ecological knowledge and its conceptual and practical role in guiding ecosystem restoration. We will address some key questions. For example, what makes traditional ecological knowledge different from Western science? What led to the recent increase in Western scientists' appreciation of traditional ecological knowledge? How can traditional ecological knowledge inform ecosystem restoration in a world that is undergoing rapid climate change, land use change, and biological invasion? And how can traditional ecological knowledge be merged with Western science to achieve more successful ecosystem restoration? The core of this seminar will be discussion based on reading of primary articles. We will also practice science communication through podcast projects. The final goal is for each group consisting of 2-3 students to make a 5-minute podcast on the scientific topic of their choice from the materials we discuss in class.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Tadashi Fukami

“I grew up near Tokyo, but my parents used to take my brothers and me to our grandparents’ place in the countryside in Wakayama. My exposure to nature there in early childhood--through fishing, tide pooling, insect catching, bird watching, etc.—was a main reason why I developed an interest in ecology. This interest was reinforced by my high-school biology teacher who talked about natural history around the school in every class. After attending Waseda University for my bachelor’s degree and the University of Tokyo for my master’s degree, I did my Ph.D. study at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I then went to New Zealand to work at the research institute called Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, where I was introduced to the importance of traditional ecological knowledge to biological conservation and restoration. After that, I was at the University of Hawaii at Manoa for a few years before moving to Stanford in 2008.”