Weaving Indigenous Ecological Knowledge into Western Science to Understand the Impacts of Non-native Seaweeds

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Focus Area(s)
Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies




This project will combine methods of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Western-biased Science to understand how two non-native seaweeds may be impacting the native ecosystem and will engage in community conversations regarding food sovereignty as well as subsistence and it’s use in ecological management.



Biodiversity conservation of our planet’s unique ecosystems necessitates a diversity of

ideas, people, and practices. Collaborative efforts combining multiple knowledge systems, such as Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Western-biased Science, will allow for a transformative way to approach science practice. This project aims to develop new ways of thinking by bringing together the local ecological knowledge of Black and Indigenous perspectives in San Diego on the current ecological dilemma of non-native species and the potential for invasion in our coastal ecosystems. 

Researchers will work with Kumeyaay and Black community members in a collaborative effort to revitalize knowledge systems and better understand the establishment, survival and spread of two invasive macroalgal species - kelp Undaria pinnatifida and Sargassum horneri. The researchers will host Knowledge Sharing, Community Science, and Food Lab community events to co-produce a scientific approach, conduct observational surveys, and dialogue on food sovereignty in the context of ecological management. 

This community-driven study will fill knowledge gaps by determining if there’s a negative impact on local subtidal communities so limited management resources in California can be allocated efficiently. This information will also answer questions from the Kumeyaay community regarding what seaweeds could be used in Indigenous dishes while Black community members will learn new ways to locally harvest seaweeds.

Community Mentors: Caroline Collins (University of California, San Diego), Heather Ponchetti Daly (University of California, San Diego)


Principal Investigators
Jennifer Smith
University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Co-principal Investigators
Danielle McHaskell
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego