Biodiversity and Culture

Tahitian community-based organization 'Association Te Pu Atitia' is documenting traditional knowledge of Moorea's biodiversity.  At the same time, the Moorea Biocode Project is creating an exhaustive genetic database of the island's biota. Atitia and Biocode both aim to transmit their respective results to local schools and have decided to pool their outreach efforts.  This educational collaboration teaches the importance of biodiversity from two perspectives:

  1. Essential ecosystem services (Biocode component - with additional support from the National Science Foundation's "GK-12: Exploring Moorea Biodiversity" program)
  2. Cultural traditions that depend on biodiversity (Atitia component)

Another aspect of the collaboration between Atitia and Biocode focuses on ensuring that the Tahitian names for biodiversity are accurately recorded.  Scientists provide the Latin names and genetic barcodes (Biocode) and Atitia provides the Tahitian names - what we are calling the "Ethnocode".  This collaborative effort to build a comprehensive Biocode and Ethnocode for Moorea provides an ideal opportunity to teach children about their biological and cultural heritage in a common pedagogical framework.

See Jerome Petit's blog for news of these educational outreach activities.

Traditional knowledge and modern science form a continuum motivated by a universal human desire to understand the natural world.  In addition to the educational activities already initiated, possible future research collaborations between the Moorea Biocode Project, Te Pu Atitia, and other partners are also being explored.  These discussions involve careful consideratoin of intellectual property issues. In this regard, Biocode and Atitia are active contributors to the broader dialogue on 'access and benefit sharing' (ABS) of genetic resources under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  For example, Biocode has co-sponsored two ABS meetings (Bonn 2008, Papeete 2009).