Māori knowledge systems and modern science can work together to solve the nations environmental challenges, ecologist Shaun Ogilvie says.
Ogilvie (Te Arawa and Ngāti Awa) is an associate professor at the University of Canterbury who specialises in scientific research that is grounded in Māori values and mātauranga (traditional knowledge), and focuses on the connections between people and nature.
"The idea of humans not being connected to our environment is a problem that underpins a lot of the climate issues we are facing now.
"Returning to indigenous ways of thinking that emphasise how people are connected with nature can lead to some innovative solutions."
Ogilvie has explored natural solutions to beat environmental challenges by implementing mātauranga Māori methods.
These include the commercial feasibility of using mātauranga Māori-based traditional fish traps (pots called tāruke with an entrance at the top), instead of commercial trawling to reduce bycatch, and combined science and mātauranga to help mitigate the health risks from a neurotoxin found in shellfish.
He was also able to extract a toxin from a native plant (tutu) that was found useful as an alternative to the poison 1080.
Ogilvie says he'd like to see this area of research flourish with more Māori professors to further push this work.
"I think the area where change needs to happen is in the higher levels of science funding institutions where there's an inherent bias towards Western ways of doing science.
"There's more scope for having a conversation about things Māori within the university compared to when I was coming through, but there's still some way to go.
It was while he was studying for his master's degree in Ecology at Otago University that Ogilvie began to question how science could be applied in a way that was useful for Māori communities and how it could encompass Māori knowledge and perspectives.
Adjunct Associate Professor Shaun Ogilvie is one of 24 Māori academics featured in a new book: Ngā Kete Mātauranga: Māori scholars at the research interface.
The book explores perspective and insight for all New Zealanders on how mātauranga can positively influence the Western-dominated disciplines of knowledge in the research sector.