Indigenous Knowledge Systems Fellow
Job Search Location(s) United States - Location Negotiable
ID 1470
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Indigenous Knowledge Systems Fellow

Conservation International (CI) has been protecting nature for the benefit of all for over 30 years. Through science, policy, and partnerships, CI is helping build a healthier, more prosperous and more productive planet.  


‘Uo ‘ia i ka ‘aha ho‘okahi. Interweave the cordage into one.

The ‘Ōlelo No‘eau (Hawaiian Proverb) above highlights the value of cordage in ancient Hawai‘i as it was used to manufacture implements for contracts, ceremonies, fishing, canoe-making, construction, clothing, weapons, and recreational activities. Strong cordage was made by twisting plant fibers together, and specific plants were used for their strength, flexibility, and non-slip qualities. Strong cordage is often used as a metaphor when weaving various knowledge systems to plan resource abundance and adaptive strategies for present and future generations. With this philosophy as a foundation, Conservation International is launching an international program focused on transforming the way knowledge systems are understood, recognized and utilized for ocean resilience and management. This program will contribute to the recent and evolving international recognition of interweaving indigenous knowledge systems with western scientific approaches that implement solutions to some of the world’s most critical ocean challenges through principles of intergenerational equity, reciprocity, and kinship.

In addressing numerous challenges of ocean conservation, the private and public sectors currently rely heavily upon western scientific approaches as an exclusive knowledge system to inform analysis and decision-making. Consequently, indigenous ecological knowledge is often overlooked, dismissed, or incorporated only as a minor component of decision-making. Worse it can be used to falsely ‘rubber-stamp’ poor decision-making based on faulty interpretation or misappropriation of indigenous knowledge. Contrary to those missteps, indigenous knowledge systems have been proven useful for understanding the potential of certain adaptation strategies that are cost-effective, collaborative, and resilient. Given that, both knowledge systems can bring different complementary benefits and value to foster effective ocean conservation and management that would otherwise have been unachievable or less effective. By interweaving complementary elements of indigenous knowledge and western scientific systems, CI is developing the next generation of holistic science approaches that simultaneously address ocean resilience while also improving intergenerational equity in the way knowledge systems are recognized, communicated, and utilized.

The new Knowledge Systems program will be housed in CI's Center for Oceans and will work closely with the Center for Communities and Conservation, Moore Center for Science, and CI’s field teams to explore, document, and develop the science, solutions, partnerships, and field examples needed to bring this innovative approach to the world’s decision-makers. The fellow will also engage closely with CI’s broader family of indigenous fellows working in sites globally. The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Fellow will lead development and strategic implementation of the Knowledge Systems program across CI, build and advance critical collaborations among indigenous communities, western trained scientists, government and conservation organizations; provide critical technical expertise and support across CI, particularly to CI's field programs; and, lead the day-to-day operations of the program.  The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Fellow will be at the forefront of developing an intergenerational equity framework for deploying indigenous knowledge for application globally and to influence policy development to protect environmental commons.

CI is seeking a unique individual to fill the role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Fellow. The fellow will come to the position with the capability of understanding both indigenous knowledge and western science knowledge systems, with an emphasis on ecology. In addition, the fellow will have an appreciation of the immense potential of interweaving both knowledge systems to address ocean challenges across the globe with a strong drive to utilize these knowledge systems to build ocean resilience while supporting adaptative and abundance strategies for coastal communities. The fellow will embody a strong commitment to bio-cultural management and social-ecological concerns globally, particularly including the importance of healthy marine ecosystems for abundant coastal communities. The ideal applicant will have indigenous knowledge expertise, proven literacy in western ocean science approaches, and a solid working knowledge of resilience thinking and intergenerational equity approaches and principles. The fellow will also ideally have experience working with indigenous communities, governments, and academia. Additionally, the capacity to develop strong collaborations with a broad range of institutions and individuals is essential as the fellow will be a key contact for the nascent Knowledge Systems program as CI builds collaborations with indigenous communities, leading academic institutions, government agencies and non-profits.


  • Lead development and strategic implementation of the new Knowledge Systems program across CI, including aligning priorities across the CI’s Center for Oceans, Center for Conservation and Communities, Field programs, and Moore Center for Science.
  • Work closely with CI's field programs and coordinate an advisory group made up of regional and global stakeholders to identify, develop and document interwoven indigenous and western knowledge systems which have generated principals, tools, strategies that result in effective ocean conservation and management that would otherwise have been unachievable or less effective, starting with the CI Hawaii program. The fellow will provide essential technical support to the CI's field programs.
  •  Work with program leaders from across CI to identify and develop opportunities in CI geographies where interwoven knowledge approaches can be implemented for improved ocean and coastal resilience outcomes. Work in tandem with CI Centers, field teams, and partners to develop programs that create, use and promote interwoven knowledge systems for ocean resilience outcomes.
  • Develop partnerships and use CI-based examples to accelerate and expand development of interwoven knowledge system approaches and policies for ocean management and conservation. Facilitate linkages and collaboration between western scientists and indigenous communities. 
  • Work with CI leadership to fundraise for implementation and expansion of the program through a diverse range of funding sources.


  • The location of the position is negotiable, but preference will be for co-locating with relevant programs and partners (initially in Hawaii).

  • International travel approximately 25% of the time.

  • Normal office environment.



  • Proven ability to work independently and coordinate and collaborate with geographically disparate teams.
  • Demonstrated capacity to work within and with indigenous communities.
  • Broad knowledge of current conservation and environmental laws, issues, priorities, approaches and strategies especially in ocean and coastal environments. Ability to identify the range of pertinent and applicable marine conservation issues applicable to a specific location or environmental challenge
  • Broad knowledge of ocean science as relevant to ocean conservation including research skills and capacity to develop knowledge in a broad range of technical disciplines.
  • Strong organizational and financial management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to build and support a variety of partnerships. Experience working with government agencies, scientific organizations and/or academic institutions preferred.  
  • Sustained ability to lead, engage and collaborate with diverse teams and individuals across various disciplines, cultures and backgrounds to achieve shared goals.
  • Proven ability to deliver results while managing competing priorities under tight deadlines.
  •  Outstanding written and spoken communication skills.
  • Experience writing for broad variety of audiences, including academic, media, web blogs, funding proposals.


  • Multidisciplinary regional or global experience with indigenous communities and marine conservation issues.
  • Degree or honorary degree in: marine science, environmental management, sustainable development, or other conservation-related fields; or Law, with a focus in environmental and indigenous law or related fields.

To apply for this position please submit a resume and cover letter.

See all Conservation International Career Opportunities HERE

Conservation International Values

We expect that all employees will embrace the values of our organization.​

  • Passion: Inspired by people and by nature, we are urgently compelled to drive change for a sustainable future. 
  • Integrity: We are honest, transparent and accountable for our actions.
  • Teamwork: We work together as one CI, recognizing that inclusion, collaboration and cooperation are fundamental to achieving a healthy and prosperous world for all.
  • Respect: We respect each other and work to earn trust, valuing our diversity of cultures, talents, and experiences.
  • Courage: We pursue our vision, taking bold action, persevering and overcoming challenges.
  • Optimism: We are optimistic about the capacity of people to be caring, generous and brilliant, and believe that with partners, we can inspire humanity to create a better future.

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