Heather McMillen

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management
hmcmille [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Bio: I am an affiliate faculty member of NREM and a social science researcher with the US Forest Service. I am an ethnobiologist with a PhD in anthropology and a certificate in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. My research investigates the relationships among local knowledge, community-based resource management, and global environmental change. I am interested in the role of natural resources as cultural resources, the interactions between environmental and human health, and collaborative resource management. I am broadly interested in how diverse perspectives can improve our understanding of our reciprocal relationships with nature, and offer insights on thoughtful ways of living in the world.

Projects: Tamara Ticktin and I co-led the project Local Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change based in North Kona, Hawaiʻi Island. This in-depth, community-based, interdisciplinary project investigated traditional Hawaiian and local knowledge-relevant to climate and environmental change; the biological and cultural resources most valued by community members; and coping mechanisms, adaptation strategies and resources that promote social-ecological resiliency to climate change. Our methods centered on an interdisciplinary, community-based process that integrated data from workshops, interviews, focus groups, historical literature, and ecological monitoring. Led by the knowledge and innovation of community participants, we developed a series of products, including a timeline of adaptation, a seasonal calendar, maps of the predicted effects of climate change on key resources in Ka‘ūpūlehu, and an online database that tracks observations of weather and phenology of plants and animals on the land and in the ocean. Collectively these products reveal lessons about how people have adapted and continue to adapt to change, establish reference points for evaluating future observations of change, strengthen relationships to place and knowledge transmission, and support adaptive
management strategies. I continue to be involved with this community, most recently in collaboration with Puaʻala Pascua to identify Cultural Ecosystem Services from a place-based perspective.