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Sci-TEK Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Geospatial Data for Mapping Local Priorities

Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (UNO-CHART) Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Science (PIES), University of New Orleans Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), State of Louisiana

What is Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)?

TEK is a sophisticated knowledge possessed by a group or individual about an environment as a result of having lived in and observed an environment for generations. It is both evolving and current, and incorporates an historical, cultural and spiritual perspective of locals existence in that environment. Native Womens Association of Canada

Benefits of Incorporating TEK into Restoration Decision Making

Contributes new knowledge from years of on-the-ground observations. Gains support for the projects from local experts and their communities. Reciprocal knowledge transfer (science/TEK). Augment the current planning and implementation process.

What is SciTEK?

TEK is gathered from local experts and transcribed. TEK transcripts are converted to a coded, spatially referenced dataset. TEK dataset analyzed for issues, factors, priorities, etc. Scientific datasets are chosen or created that reflect the physical and biological characteristics and social dynamics described by local experts. Combined datasets are used to describe the TEK analysis in a mapped format.

Purpose & Goal of Project


To expand, test and refine a technique that incorporates TEK into the restoration tool box. Determine resource users priorities, concerns, and their thinking about restoration project techniques and locations. Build relationships between scientists and local experts with reciprocal knowledge transfer.

Incorporate lessons learned into the SciTEK methodology for use in restoration decision-making.

The Study Area

Identifying TEK Experts

TEK Data Collection Trips

Local experts showed us locations that illustrated their concerns and visions of restoration. Equipment used: Voice recorder, Trimble (GPS), camera, etc.

Maps were used as a common language facilitating conversations.


Salinity meter to compare TEK to scientific measurement.

TEK Trip Area Coverage

Bringing Agency Personnel Out with TEK Experts

Reciprocal knowledge transfer done best in person. Relationship building for future engagement. Refine & demonstrate the collaboration technique with numerous agency staff.

Validating TEK Analysis: Land-Based Meetings


Used maps to facilitate conversation and allowed experts to draw their visions of restoration. Identified areas of consensus among experts. Verified priority locations and uncovered the logic.

Restoration Priority Areas Identified at Land-Based Meetings

Spatial/Scientific Data to Represent TEK Priority Conditions


Through TEK process, ecosystem characteristics important to users were identified. Subsequently, existing or able to be collected spatial/scientific data of same characteristics were identified:

Land loss Historical marsh vegetation type Soil type Vegetation Turbidity Marsh fragmentation Current and planned coastal protection and restoration project boundary files Remotely sensed image data

Sci-TEK Spatial Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (SMCDA) GIS Mapping Procedure

Complimentary Scientific/Spatial Input Data Layers

Parameters for input datasets defined by TEK

TEK related to location factors for emergent focus issues

SMCDA Model Map indicating TEK-based priority areas for each Sci-TEK focus issue

Standardized weighting based on TEK and merging datasets

Marsh Creation Logic Model Factor 1: Marsh Fragmentation

Location Factor One: Areas which have experienced land loss, but still have remnant marsh to build upon are preferred for restoration. Quote: Now some of your sections of land that are still theretry to build land there. But, stuff like this (pointing to mostly open water) dont waste your money on that little bit. This one is gone, that is gone over there is gone. Scientific Data Sets: Land loss data set from USGS, marsh fragmentation.

Marsh Creation Location Factor 1: Remnant Marsh

Marsh Creation Logic Model Factor 4: Near Other Restoration

Location Factor Four: Areas near current or planned restoration projects are more preferable for restoration. Quote: See if they would build this back up, and with the siphon, all of this would be ready to hold that fresh waterI think if they put the siphon back on and restore the ridge so they can keep some of that fresh water, and plant vegetation, those are things you could do to bring it back. Scientific Data Sets: current and planned project layer from CPRA.

Marsh Creation Location Factor 4: Near Current or Planned Restoration

Summary of TEK Location Factors for the Marsh Creation/Island Restoration Issue
Location preferences (by weight): 1) Areas where land loss has occurred, but remnant marsh still exists. 2) Barrier islands where land loss has occurred that provide needed protection. 3) Areas near the barrier islands that would help close the flow of too much saltwater into the interior of the Basin. 4) Areas near current/planned restoration projects. 5) Poor marsh condition (related to fragmentation). 6) Poor marsh condition related to vegetation condition (related to greenness and biomass). 7) Restoration near ridges to provide enhanced benefit. 8) Avoid active oyster reef areas. 9) Areas near levee protection projects.

Composite Map: Marsh Creation/Island Restoration Model of TEK Priorities

Composite Map: Marsh Creation/Island Restoration Model of TEK Priorities

Composite Map: Marsh Creation Model of TEK Priorities with Master Plan Projects Overlaid

Other Products Created

Model for Shoreline Protection Projects Model for Freshwater Introduction Projects

Uses for Sci-TEK Results

Refine details of large conceptual footprints of projects in Barataria Basin. Sequencing/prioritizing project implementation. Identify additional restoration projects. Illustrate areas of consensus and potential conflicts. Inform and refine decision criteria that are intended to represent local priorities and knowledge. To engage local experts and residents at every phase of restoration and protection project implementation.

Thank You! Questions? Your Thoughts?