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Graduate Degree Programs
M.S., M.P.S. and Ph.D. in Indigenous Peoples and the Environment

Students in the Indigenous Peoples and the Environment (IPE) graduate program work collaboratively to generate strategies for vital new directions in environmental thinking, which engage both Indigenous knowledge and the tools of western science The Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at SUNY ESF has a decades long record of integrating these ways of knowing in environmental problem-solving.

In December 2022, the White House issued federal policy guidelines which elevate inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge in Federal environmental decision making. Thus, education which prioritizes integration of Indigenous knowledge could not be more timely and relevant.

Solutions to complex ecological problems require not only scientific expertise, but also understanding of the cultural context in which they occur. Cross-cultural competence thus becomes an important component of functioning effectively in the global scientific community. This is particularly true in the environmental disciplines, where science and culture intersect. All over the world, conservation biologists and policy makers are realizing the importance of incorporating local and Indigenous knowledge into conservation efforts.

Indigenous people are the stewards of fully 4% of the land area of the United States and represent some 700 distinct communities possessing detailed knowledge of the biota of their homelands. Native American land holdings in North America collectively contain more wildlands than all of the National Parks and Nature Conservancy areas in North America. Globally, Indigenous people inhabit areas with some of the highest remaining biodiversity on the planet and are actively being engaged as partners in biodiversity conservation. Issues of sustainable development, resource management and ecological restoration all include Native American stakeholders. Federal agencies are required to consult with tribes on a government-to-government basis on a host of scientific and natural resource policies. Thus, our ESF graduates have a high probability of encountering issues involving Indigenous cultures and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

TEK, which is foundational to Indigenous environmental science, is valued by academics, agency scientists and policy makers as a potential source of ideas for emerging models of ecosystem management, conservation biology and ecological restoration. TEK is complementary and equivalent to scientific knowledge. Researchers in pharmaceutical laboratories to agricultural experiment stations recognize the knowledge of Indigenous peoples in scientific research. New directions in applied biology that have direct parallels and precedents in traditional knowledge include ecosystem management, medicine, agriculture, wildlife and fisheries sciences. Biological research is moving to explore these “new” approaches.

IPE students work with faculty and staff through the ESF Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, which is internationally-recognized for excellence in scholarship and service in Indigenous environmental science. Through coursework, focused seminars, community outreach, research and mentorship with faculty and staff engaged in knowledge integration, students become part of a community of scholars committed to scholarly work in support of biocultural thriving. SUNY ESF is honored to be a member of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership