Biocultural Resilience in the Pacific

The end of 2015 concluded the first year of a new groundbreaking five-year project on Pacific biodiversity, which over five years will build on existing partnerships with communities in the Solomon Islands and expand collaboration with others working in the region. The project takes a biocultural approach to sustaining Pacific coastal communities and the forests and reefs that support them, by considering the interplay between human communities and their lands and seascapes. 

The multidisciplinary research team and partners from local and international institutions began work alongside local communities to measure and visualize how people shape ecosystems, and integrate this into management plans for the islands. This included embarking on an initiative to improve coral reef conservation and foster resilient communities in the Western Province, led by the CBC’s Chief Conservation Scientist Dr. Eleanor Sterling

Working with three focal communities, we are striving to raise communities’ capacity for future resource management in the face of major challenges such as climate change, population growth, and the influence of international markets. In particular, we are developing skills for assessing future scenarios and for measuring and monitoring biocultural community health using criteria that align ecological well-being—such as reef fish diversity, hard and soft coral community health, and healthy nursery areas for coral reef species—and human well-being—such as culturally significant seascapes, food fisheries, and clean fresh water.

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Dr. Georgina Cullman cleaning shells and other invertebrates for cooking with local women in West Parara, Solomon Islands.


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A dietary diversity survey and food ranking tool was tested with research participants.


During the first year of the project the team researched other similar initiatives around the world to better understand how to synthesize ecological and human well-being and, through a series of workshops with local partners, began the process of tailoring these approaches to the Solomon Islands and designing conservation strategies that will more closely reflect the worldview of Pacific Island communities—which tend to have strong cultural traditions relating to resource use.

We also formalized a community partnership on proposed activities and established government channels for conservation action. We gathered data to help map community boundaries and show changes in forest cover over time in the focal communities, as well as to explore the links between nutrition, food security, and conservation. In one of the partner communities, engagement with CBC staff led to the development of a women’s association that will serve as a platform for addressing women’s needs, such as short-term credit.

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We convened a workshop in Tahiti to document how people are using biocultural indicators across the Pacific.


In Tahiti, we convened a workshop to document how people are using biocultural indicators across the Pacific, explore how indicators assist communication across audiences, and encourage knowledge exchange across multiple groups. The workshop brought together a diverse set of perspectives including representatives from government agencies, cultural and environmental institutions, and academia. 

Participants presented case studies of biocultural indicator use, leading to a lively plenary discussion that highlighted the importance of biocultural indicators for the integrity and resilience of local communities. Overall, the workshop successfully brought to light specific instances of biocultural approaches and indicator use, identified new potential biocultural indicators for future use, and contributed to cross-cultural and pan-Pacific exchange of ideas and solutions to address critical issues facing communities today.

The CBC greatly acknowledges the National Science Foundation for its generous support of the Pacific biodiversity project.

Read more about the CBC's work on resilient biocultural land- and seascapes.