SNAPP TEAM:Assessing Biocultural Indicators
Support SNAPP
Teams Like This
How can resilience indicators, defined using a biocultural approach, be used to learn how Pacific communities will cope with future change and inform specific interventions that prioritize both nature and human well-being?

Pacific Island communities face unprecedented challenges in conserving natural resources and maintaining human wellbeing. Despite best intentions to measure progress, international frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were not necessarily designed to capture the complex linkages between humanity and nature and often miss opportunities to integrate diverse voices. In these place-based communities, the integrated social, economic, cultural and environmental connections between people and nature are believed to play a critical role in maintaining resilience.


OUR APPROACH: The team focused on adapting existing global indicator sets (like the SDGs) to incorporate Pacific worldviews and developed new indicators using Pacific values and visions of resilience and sustainable practices to fill gaps in existing frameworks. The team used a biocultural approach, incorporating social, ecological, and cultural information, to define locally-appropriate indicators of resilience to ensure that management interventions positively impact ecosystems and human well-being.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenge:

Defining Culturally Relevant Indicators of Wellbeing

The team developed a list of 93 elements of wellbeing, and obtained feedback on the list from a broader group of Pacific Islanders to ensure that the elements were culturally relevant. They also developed a relational database and data entry portal to assess the SDG indicators against the new list of wellbeing elements.

Team Publications

The team has produced five publications with significant scientific results. These publications have bolstered the scientific literature on relationships from local to global metrics centered around human and environmental resilience and well-being. They include information on ways to better articulate complex connections between people and the environment in decision-making. These publications emphasize the importance of locally and culturally informed indicators in monitoring and reporting for resource management.

Guidance Documents for Partners

The team also focused on developing, piloting, and refining a set of outreach materials that provide advice for national and multilateral reporting using locally and culturally attuned metrics. Over 32 international partners, both conservation groups and governmental agencies, engaged with the team over the course of the project. The products are also being used to inform sustainability negotiations at global, regional, and national level as groups prepare for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and as Pacific Island countries finalize their reporting indicators for the SDGs. 


“By including local peoples’ knowledges, values, and perspectives along with more generalized knowledge, we can develop more appropriate indicators and management approaches for achieving sustainability and well-being.”

-Eleanor Sterling, Team Co-Lead

Key Products
Tradition and conservation worldviews collide in Melanesia

The team’s paper in Pacific Conservation Biology recounts lessons from attempts at conservation measures across Melanesia, showcasing the challenges and opportunities that arise when worldviews collide.

Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales

In this Nature publication, the team posits that biocultural approaches and evidence synthesis are critical to developing metrics that facilitate linkages across scales and dimensions.

Culturally Grounded Indicators of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems

This literature review published in Environment and Society explores the development of culturally grounded indicator sets to identify patterns and inform future efforts to build effective, culturally grounded measurement systems.

Developing biocultural indicators

Social–ecological systems frameworks sometimes fail to acknowledge the full complexity of people’s interactions with the environment. This paper describes factors that Pacific Islanders identify as important for resilient communities.

Click here to see more products from this SNAPP Team
Eleanor Sterling
American Museum of Natural History
Manuel Mejia
Coral Reef Alliance
Stacy Jupiter
Wildlife Conservation Society
Tamara Ticktin
University of Hawaiʻi
Alan Friedlander
National Geographic Society
Chris Filardi
Conservation International
Joachim Claudet
French National Center for Scientific Research
Joe McCarter
American Museum of Natural History
Lihla Noori
Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance
Lisa Mandle
Stanford University
Natalie Kurashima
University of Hawaiʻi
Pua’ala Pascua
University of Hawaiʻi
Rachel Dacks
University of Hawaiʻi
Ron Vave
University of Hawaiʻi
Simon Albert
University of Queensland
Steven Gray
University of Michigan
Supin Wongbusarakum
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Explore More Teams Like This