Ethnoecology is the cross-cultural study of how people perceive and manipulate their environments. It has traditionally focused on linguistic analyses of terms for plants, animals, habitats, and ecological phenomena in attempts to reveal underlying structures of the human mind that influence human behavior. The field's strength lies in its basic assumption, as outlined by Frake, that it is important to determine first what indigenous people "consider worth attending to" if we are to understand human relations with non-human environments. The early works of Conklin, Frake, Berlin and others documented rich and detailed indigenous knowledge systems that allow humans to subsist. These works helped destroy the ethnocentric view that indigenous knowledge was less rigorous than "western" scientific knowledge. Indigenous and western ways of knowing the natural world are different, however. Ethnoecologists have developed methods and databases that allow us to make sense of these differences. As a result, ethnoecology is a method for conserving cultural and biological diversity in that it serves as a bridge of understanding between cultures.
David Casagrande (Lead Author);William Freudenburg (Topic Editor) "Ethnoecology". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth October 12, 2006; Last revised Date July 2, 2012; Retrieved May 21, 2013 <http://www.eoearth.org/article/Ethnoecology>