A Comparison Between Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
and Scientific Ecological Knowledge

Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Scientific Ecological Knowledge

Mainly qualitative (although counting may be used, other modes of measurement and analysis are central)

Mainly quantitative (strong preference for quantitative measurement and analysis)

Emphasizes intuitive and informal modes of knowing

Emphasis is on formal inductive and deductive logic, although intuition can play a role

Views nature holistically as more than the sum of its parts and includes a spiritual aspect

Trys to explain nature by identifying limited sets of priniciples or laws as do chemists and physicists. Specifically excludes a spiritual aspect.

Mind and matter typically considered together

Mind and matter often separated

Includes moral values

Ideally value free

Based on observations & accumulation of facts by trial and error

Systematic, deliberate accumulation of fact through experimentation

Based on data generated by resource users themselves

Based on data generated by specialized researchers

Based on long time-series information in one locality (diachronic data)

Based on short time-series information over a large area (synchronic data)

Primarily concerned with local interest and needs

Concerned with principals of general interest and applicability [i.e., theory]

Tries to control nature to benefit specific human interests

Tries to control nature to benefit specific human interests

The above are generalizations, and there are exceptions. Traditional ecological knowledge can be quantitative; scientific ecology can and often does use holistic approaches, and sometimes produces diachronic data.

(Adapted from Miraglia, R. A. (1998). Traditional Ecological Knowledge Handbook: A Training Manual and Reference Guide for Designing, Conducting, and Participating in Research Projects Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Anchorage, Alaska, Alaska Department of Fish and Game): 7, which was based on Berkes, F. (1993). Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Perspective. Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases. J. T. Inglis. Ottawa, International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research Centre: 4.)


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