Connecting Traditional Knowledge and Fisheries Science

D Close 3

The First Nations House of Learning welcomes Dr. David Close from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in northeast Oregon. He will serve as the Distinguished Science Professor of Aboriginal Fisheries in Fisheries and Zoology.

Professor Close completed his Ph.D. in Fisheries Science at Michigan State University in 2007. As principal investigator with the Pacific Lamprey Research and Restoration Project, his studies focused on stress physiology and the endocrine system in Pacific lamprey, as part of a larger project to restore this important traditional food species to the Umatilla River in Oregon.

With his background in fish physiology, endocrinology, and aquatic ecology, Dr. Close will direct the Aboriginal Fisheries Research Unit at the Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory (AERL), working in collaboration with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples in the Pacific Northwest and internationally. This will include linking together traditional knowledge, fisheries science, and the study of aquatic ecosystems. Other key objectives will be the identification of B.C. Aboriginal research priorities, seeking out sources of funding, and recruiting and retaining Aboriginal students. It is anticipated that Aboriginal students will bring their talents to help in finding solutions to problems in the fishery, which are important for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. The overall aim is to “bring different ways of knowing (traditional knowledge and western science) together to advance First Nations fisheries management and the health of aquatic ecosystems.” As Dr. Close further says, “Each of these bodies of knowledge is important, both are valuable, and both should be used.”

In the near future, Professor Close plans to investigate early vertebrate endocrinology, conduct studies on the lower Fraser River that examine fish populations and habitat, and work with First Nations groups on the west coast of Vancouver Island. These projects will help to ensure that fish, which are central to Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal rights, will continue to be there for future generations.

As Dr. Close notes, “Aboriginal rights drive fisheries [and] and fish are considered one of our important first foods. We need to understand the biology and the environmental factors impacting the fish to restore depleted resources. We also need to preserve and restore these resources in order to use them. This is a basic right for the survival of Aboriginal peoples. Full exercise of this right and use of traditional knowledge will not leave anyone short. It will promote restoration and greater benefits for all.” UBC certainly welcomes the fresh insights of Dr. Close to the Fisheries Centre and Zoology Department.