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EarthLab and Population Health Partner to Fund New Interdisciplinary Research to Benefit People + Planet

EarthLab and the new UW Population Health Initiative announced the award of $50,000 to a new pilot project that aims to develop solutions to pressing environmental challenges at the intersection of human health. Ethnoforestry: Applying Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Ecosystem Sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula,” focuses on applying traditional ecological knowledge of local people to forest management on public lands. This results of this project are expected in late 2020.

Investigators
Bernard Bormann, Environmental and Forest Sciences
Marc Miller, Marine and Environmental Affairs
Courtney Bobsin, Environmental and Forest Sciences

Project abstract
Across the Olympic Peninsula, widespread changes in forest management policy have altered rural communities over the last several decades. Many rural communities were hit hard by a decrease in available jobs due to a decline in timber supply from over-harvesting and spotted owl protections as well as mill modernization. Tribes have since suffered from a decline of some cultural keystone species adapted to early seral conditions precluded by efficient tree regeneration and late-seral reserves. In the aftermath of this, rural communities are left to rebuild with their primary sources of work and culture degraded.

We believe a key way to build community resilience and health is through ethnoforestry: using traditional ecological knowledge of local people and applying it to forest management on public lands. Applied ethnoforestry can put the space in between regenerating conifers over the first 15 years after harvest to work. Species that are culturally valuable to nearby communities will be planted, tended, and then harvested for personal or semi-commercial use. If successful, ethnoforestry will add new small businesses and jobs and boost the local economy.

Through this grant, we will work will tribal and non-tribal communities on the Washington Coast to determine what plant species they would like to see us bring back in nearby ecosystems. We will develop a research proposal to test the growth and success of these species in permanent plots. This interdisciplinary approach will not only enhance the resilience and health of the local community, it will also benefit the local ecosystem.

More information about the Population Health Pilot Grant program can be found here.