Taking the long view for oceans and human health connection through community-driven science


Usha Varanasi, Vera L. Trainer, and Ervin Joe Schumacker (2021). Taking the long view for oceans and human health connection through community-driven science. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.


The most proactive approach to resolving current health and climate crises will require a long view, focused on establishing and fostering partnerships to identify and eliminate root causes of the disconnect between humans and nature. We describe the lessons learned through a unique scientific partnership that addresses a specific crisis, harmful algal blooms (HABs), along the northeast Pacific Ocean coast, that blends current-day technology with observational knowledge of Indigenous communities. This integrative scientific strategy resulted in creative solutions for forecasting and managing HAB risk in the Pacific Northwest as a part of the US Ocean and Human Health (OHH) program. Specific OHH projects focused on: (1) understanding genetic responses of tribal members to toxins in the marine environment, (2) knowledge sharing by elders during youth camps; (3) establishing an early warning program to alert resource managers of HABs are explicit examples of proactive strategies used to address environmental problems. The research and monitoring projects with tribal communities taught the collaborating non-Indigenous scientists the value of reciprocity, highlighting both the benefits from and protection of oceans that promote our well-being. Effective global oceans and human health initiatives require a collective action that gives equal respect to all voices to promote forward thinking solutions for ocean health.