SNAPP TEAM:Assessing Biocultural Indicators
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 well-being. 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 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 regarding resilience and sustainable practices to fill gaps in existing frameworks. The team used a biocultural approach – which incorporates 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: Social Innovations

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
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.

Exploring the relationship between plural values of nature, human well-being, and conservation and development intervention: Why it matters and how to do it?

This paper is a synthesis of seven empirical studies on the topic of capturing the impacts of conservation and development interventions on relational values and human wellbeing in the tropics, offering a practical and actionable catalogue of methods for plural valuation in the field, and reflections on their combinations, strengths and weaknesses.

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.

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