Not Just Any Old Place: Ethnoecology in a Changing World

The Science in Society Speaker Series welcomed the renowned ethnobotonist Dr. Nancy Turner from the University of Victoria to present a lecture about ethnoecology at its Vernon campus on March 15, 2010.

Dr. Nancy Turner is a professor in UVic’s School of Environmental Studies. An expert in ethnoecology, Turner shed light on the traditional ways Indigenous peoples perceive, use and care for the natural resources around them.

Ethnoecology provides an integrated approach to human-environment relationships at different scales of time and space. In north-western North America, the complex life ways and knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples who have resided for long periods of time in their home territories, can demonstrate critically important perspectives of human reliance on local ecosystems, and of escalating impacts on the other life forms of the planet.

 The rich tapestry of biological diversity – from different varieties of Saskatoon berries to special habitats – is reflected in language, knowledge, practices and beliefs of First Peoples throughout the region. Due to a multitude of forces, environments and traditions of knowledge have been eroding in recent times. Ethnoecology can raise awareness of this issue and help reinforce traditional knowledge systems.

 Turner is the author or co-author of dozens of articles, monographs and books including: Plants of Haida Gwaii (2004) and The Earth’s Blanket, Traditional Teachings for Sustainable Living (2005). Among Turner’s many honours are the Canadian Botanical Association’s Lawson medal for lifetime contributions to Canadian botany (2002) and the R.E. Schultes Award (1997), which is considered the top international award in ethnobotany. She is a member of the Order of British Columbia and the 2008 winner of William L. Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation.

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