While the concept of social-ecological transformation is increasingly being invoked to guide ecologically safe and socially just pathways to sustainability, Indigenous communities have been transforming their social and ecological systems in the face of disturbance for millennia. Today, Indigenous Nations are reasserting their inherent and constitutionally protected rights – in Canada – to manage their relationship with the lands and sea, including coastlines that continue to be a major source of food, identity, and well-being. In collaboration with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, we took a transdisciplinary approach to inform the revitalization of clam tending practices in Burrard Inlet, Canada. We 1) synthesized information on ancestral clam tending practices, 2) quantified the effect of environmental drivers on contemporary clam density, biomass, and species composition, and 3) facilitated a community knowledge exchange to envision future clam tending strategies. We found strong evidence that water flow was the dominant ecological variable driving native clam density and biomass. Moreover, we documented intergenerational knowledge sharing and experiential learning as key mechanisms to support the revitalization of clam tending practices. By centering research questions, methods, and actions that prioritized community objectives, participation, and relationships between people and place, our approach enhanced community understanding of contemporary drivers of change and possible future transformations.
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Thesis advisor: Salomon, Anne K.
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