Transforming conservation practice through indigenous-led M&E

Wednesday, 29th May 2024       |      20.00 – 21.30 CEST


Ecological/biodiversity monitoring is widely acknowledged as key to good conservation project management. Currently, the leading conservation monitoring systems use mainstream ‘Western’ conceptual frameworks, which tend to be quantitative and reductionist, focus on individual ecological elements rather than relationships, and seek to bring universal rules to bear on individual places. Increasingly, indigenous peoples and local communities are calling for monitoring to be implemented according to their ontologies and knowledge systems. This involves establishing conservation projects that are rooted in indigenous knowledge systems and relational ontologies, rather than simply adapting conventional monitoring approaches to indigenous contexts. It also means rooting indigenous monitoring processes in place, relationship and ceremony, amongst others.

In this session we will share experiences of indigenous-led monitoring of conservation or environmental projects, exploring the immense potential of rooting monitoring in indigenous ontologies and knowledge systems. It also will give space to a reflection about the challenges and unexpected possibilities of negotiating the differences between Western scientific frameworks and indigenous knowledge systems for ecological monitoring.



Dr. Yolanda López-Maldonado

Yolanda López-Maldonado is an indigenous Mayan woman from Mexico and an environmental specialist working on various aspects of nature conservation. She has a strong background in promoting and defending the diversity of ideas, knowledge, values and forms of self-expression of indigenous peoples. Her career has spanned diverse topics in both the natural and social sciences, while her focus has mainly been on earth observations and the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in contemporary science-policy-society. She has worked and collaborated with academic and non-academic organisations in multilateral settings at different UN levels, fostering discussions on how science can build trust between nations and support policies. Recently she has been appointed as Lead Author of the Indigenous Knowledge and Local Knowledge for the Global Environment Outlook Report 7, Early Warning and Assessment Division, UNEP. A Young scholar at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Junior Fellow the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Dr López-Maldonado holds a PhD in Human Geography from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Germany).

Dr. Rachel Dacks

Rachel Dacks is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She grew up in Miami, FL and first came to Hawaiʻi as a protected species fisheries observer, working on longline tuna boats. While her early academic background and work experience focused on marine ecology and fisheries, her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small Indigenous village in Fiji made her acutely aware of the need to incorporate sociocultural factors into conservation planning. Her research focuses on using qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand complex human dimensions of natural resource management across the Pacific Islands region. She is specifically interested in how monitoring and evaluation of conservation and resource management interventions can be guided by biocultural approaches, in order to reflect the wellbeing of the entire system.

Dr. Janelle Baker 

Janelle Marie Baker is Associate Professor in Anthropology and the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies programs at Athabasca University in what is now known as northern Alberta, Canada. Her research is on traditional wild food and medicine security and sovereignty. Since 2006, she has studied sakâwiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) experiences with contamination of wild foods in Treaty No. 8 territory, which is an area of extreme extraction of oil and forests. In this context, Dr. Baker collaborates with Bigstone Cree Nation environmental monitors using community-based methods and ethnoecology to test moose, water, fish, and plant foods and medicine samples, while partnering with toxicologists and microbiologists who study sources of harmful contaminants. Janelle is also co-PI with Métis anthropologist Zoe Todd on a project that is restor(y)ing land use governance and bull trout population health in a contested area of the Rocky Mountain foothills in Alberta, Canada through podcasts and an upcoming museum exhibit. This work has grown into a Canadian Institute of Health Research funded project working with Stoney Nakoda Women to test traditional foods for high selenium content. Dr. Baker is a Co-Editor of Ethnobiology Letters, a diamond open-access online peer-reviewed journal and is the North Americas Representative on the International Society of Ethnobiology Board of Directors. She is the winner of the 2019 Canadian Association for Graduate Studies – ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences category.

Zoom video recording is now available on our YouTube channel.

Link to recording on YouTube

Conservation’s Leading Edges

This session is part of the In Conversation Series: Conservation’s Leading Edges.