One of the many topics we covered in Dartmouth’s IGERT courses is the concept of Local Knowledge (LK), that is, knowledge acquired and held by people who live in a certain area or region. This is similar to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), however TEK is generally thought to have a historical component and is passed down and shared across generations.
Both LK and TEK have cultural and scientific value. Here in Greenland we have been privy to both. Last year Julia and I learned about ‘Sea Tomatoes’ in a lake outside of town, passed on to us as Local Knowledge by some Danish friends who live in Kangerlussuaq.
While not really from the sea and not really tomatoes, we would have never learned of this unique ecological feature if it weren’t for the sharing of Local Knowledge. After exploring the lake with sea tomatoes and doing a bit of research, we learned that these are actually cyanobacteria, specifically Nostoc, and quite common in the Arctic. Nostoc is known to form large colonies, however, none quite as big as what we found here in Greenland.
[Colossal Sea Tomato found on 15 June 2011.]
Hoping the 2011 IGERT field seminar students can continue to unravel the mystery of these Sea Tomatoes.