SRS Director Highlights Traditional Knowledge During Science Café

by Perdita B. Spriggs, EFETAC
SRS Director Rob Doudrick shared traditional knowledge with participants during a NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ August science café. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

SRS Director Rob Doudrick shared traditional knowledge with participants during a NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ August science café. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Forest health is necessary for life, but the nation’s forested lands are slowly disappearing.  How can we sustain our nation’s forests and their numerous benefits? We can use all available knowledge, both Western and traditional, to understand and address forest management issues.

“You can learn from living on the land for centuries,” said Southern Research Station Director Robert L. Doudrick during his “Listening to the Land and Honoring Traditional Knowledge” August science café at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. “Native communities see so many meanings in and uses from the natural landscape, understanding its resources in ways that Western society just can’t imagine.”

Traditional ecological knowledge, known as TEK, originated with Native American and indigenous communities as a result of living intimately with the land for thousands of years. This special relationship with the environment can serve as a foundation for long-term forest management, connecting ecological, social, spiritual, and economic understanding to forest sustainability.

Doudrick shared cultural items from his personal collection and compared and contrasted traditional knowledge with modern science. “Many foods, medicines, and other products have a Native American origin,” he said. “Aspirin is derived from willow bark, which native communities were using long before tablets and plastic bottles were created.” Doudrick added, “A couple of the most prized non-timber forest products, black cohosh and ginseng, were cultivated and cherished by Native Americans.”

His takeaway message reminded the audience that “forests are absolutely essential for our survival” and encouraged them to “use everything, use it wisely, and cherish the landscape and the relationships you have with it.”

The café supported the Station’s partnership with the museum’s Nature Research Center to share forest science with diverse audiences. Please watch Doudrick’s science café on the museum’s website.

For more information, email Perdita Spriggs at pspriggs@fs.fed.us.

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