Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Amalia Kokkinaki

Second Advisor

Stephanie A Siehr

Third Advisor

Sindy Vela


Wildfires are currently ravaging California, destroying the land and the livelihood of many vulnerable communities. This research explores the value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as a tool to aid in the fight against wildfires. Revitalization of Native American culture and traditional practices, such as prescribed burns, can transform current fire management practices. This research examined the connections among three aspects of fire management: Native American TEK, non-native ecological field studies and modelling, and current government fire policies and management practices. Through primary interviews and case studies, this research found that the Native American communities in the West have a wealth of knowledge on fire management. A key challenge is how to help non-native scientists understand and quantify place-specific TEK so it can be implemented in today's practices. Barriers such as fire suppression, human encroachment in the wildland-urban interface, and restrictions in state and federal regulations make it difficult for tribes to perform their time-tested practices. Increased trust between non-native scientists and native scientists is needed to implement their TEK, and collaboration is needed to develop new fire management strategies for resilience in man-made climate disruption.