2023 Indigenous Communities Fellowship


Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence

A braiding of culture, science, and technology into a decolonial and interactive online education platform where youth can learn how to coexist with large carnivores.

Team Lead

Stephanie Barron

Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Animo Partnership in Natural Resources

What is the name of your solution?

Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

A braiding of culture, science, and technology into a decolonial and interactive online education platform where youth can learn how to coexist with large carnivores.

What specific problem are you solving?

As grizzly bears begin to occupy more of their historic habitat and as populations continue to grow, incidences of conflict are rising. Within the last ten years, Montana livestock owners have reported depredation events at four times the rate of occurrence than in 2013. In addition, an influx of new residents to the area that are unfamiliar with bears has resulted in an increase in conflicts due to failure to secure attractants such as garbage, hobby farm livestock, and produce gardening. During the summer of 2022 Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Biologists responded to over 500 carnivore-conflict calls from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents living in both rural areas and incorporated towns across the reservation. Our specific goal for this project is to reduce human-bear conflicts through the further development of the Coalescence Carnivore Coexistence Curriculum into a virtual format that can engage the next generation of land users and decision makers. This interactive and multimedia virtual curriculum will be in a digital platform that is freely available and highly accessible for all learning levels. By teaching youth why coexistence with carnivores is important and providing them with the education and tools to prevent conflicts we stand to greatly influence the perceptions these youth have about grizzly bears and other large carnivores. 

Over 32,000 people reside on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Approximately 7,000 of those residents are students who are actively learning how to live with over 150 resident grizzly bears, hundreds more black bears, two resident wolf packs, and an unknown number of mountain lions. This virtual curriculum will provide sci-cultural ecological knowledge and conflict prevention skills that will better prepare residents to share the landscapes they live on with carnivores by building upon recently developed educational materials and making them accessible on multiple platforms. Traditional ecological knowledge and stories will ensure that Indigenous students feel represented and provide historic and cultural context for every student. Interactive games presented in a digital format will support the development of applicable skills such as electric fence building or identifying attractants, which will provide experiential learning opportunities for students that encourage proactive problem-solving. 

The curriculum itself will be held and owned by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes ensuring that they have the right and ability to protect the cultural content, and to profit from any and all further development and distribution of the curriculum. However, once developed, this model can be adapted for other areas on the continent, with a particular emphasis toward Tribal communities that live with carnivores! Successful and lasting conservation of a species occurs when the communities living with and around that species are on board with conservation efforts. Decolonial youth engagement and education around grizzly bears is a meaningful way to connect with communities that have the power to influence conservation success both today and in the future, and to empower them to steward their lands and the animals that live there.

What is your solution?

Our solution is to adapt the recently developed Coalescence: Carnivore Coexistence Curriculum into an multimedia and interactive digital learning platform. This will require the use of website development and coding technologies in order to transform the physical curriculum into an online learning experience. Adaptation of physical materials into virtually accessible and participatory activities will help to engage a wider audience both on and off the reservation. Activities that cultivate skill development can be turned into fun and exciting online games for students of all ages to learn relevant skills to prevent conflict and identify carnivores. Audio and video recordings of Selis and Qlispe elders sharing songs and stories of carnivores will be embedded into the virtual curriculum in order to consistently tie the knowledge and lessons learned back to place. Public accessibility to this curriculum will be ensured in two key ways: 

1. This digital learning platform will be freely available to the public via the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Natural Resource Management website.

2. We hope to design this online curriculum so that it can be easily converted into English, Spanish, and Selis as these are the three primary languages spoken on the reservation. 

Our solution overall focuses on increasing the number of people, and especially youth, who can learn about carnivore coexistence. By designing and building an online learning platform that is freely available in multiple languages, that is fun for ages, and that contains relevant sci-cultural knowledge to this place, we hope to increase the resources the public has to learn about and live with carnivores.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

This project will serve the 32,000+ human residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation, especially members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of present day Montana, by creating virtual interactive content and activities that expand upon the existing Coalescence Curriculum. Transformation of the Coalescence Curriculum into a digital platform will greatly increase the availability of these conflict-prevention tools and knowledge. As the public has more access to these resources they will be better able to identify their personal risk for carnivore conflict based on how they are using their land and be more capable of selecting the appropriate tools and technologies to mitigate that conflict. Often when instances of large-carnivore conflict occur one of the most significant impacts on the humans experiencing that conflict are the feelings of loss of control and vulnerability. Humans often feel angry and violated at the physical, emotional, and financial loss of livestock or destruction of property. By making carnivore-conflict prevention information more accessible to the public our solution will empower residents to take active steps towards reducing the likelihood that they will have to experience those negative emotional, physical, and financial consequences of human-carnivore conflict. 

Between tribal, federal, and state entities there are around ten individuals who are primarily responsible for responding to human-carnivore conflict on the reservation and for educating the growing public population. These ten individuals often have responsibilities that extend into the National Forests that go beyond the reservation boundaries and are largely unavailable to attend to education and outreach during summer months because they are actively responding to conflicts. Our solution seeks to serve these hard-working and often overburdened conflict-prevention specialists by ensuring that a wider audience has access to carnivore-conflict prevention information. This will help relieve some of the education burden these wildlife managers currently face. 

Finally, this project will also serve the 100+ grizzly bears, hundreds of black bears, 30+ wolves, and untold number of mountain lion residents who also live on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Currently when human-carnivore conflict occurs, individual carnivores become listed as “repeat offenders of conflict.” These repeat offenders are often relocated from their home ranges or euthanized. Our solution serves these carnivorous non-human residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation by empowering the human residents to implement the tools and techniques that allow for the carnivores to move across these shared landscapes without getting into trouble with human-residents. By facilitating public access to coexistence information and technology we reduce the opportunity for carnivores to engage in depredation or destruction of property. This subsequently reduces the likelihood that individual carnivores become habituated to human trash or livestock and thus reduces the need to forcibly relocate or euthanize “repeat offenders.”

Which Indigenous community(s) does your solution benefit? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?

The need for this project was identified by Stephanie Barron who developed the project idea after three years of human-carnivore conflict prevention work, research, and relationship building on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Stephanie initially conducted eleven formal interviews with large carnivore specialists across Northwest Montana where she first learned of the need for education and outreach materials, specifically on the Flathead Reservation. Then during an internship in 2022, Stephanie learned of ongoing work by Montana tribes to increase youth access to carnivore conflict prevention tools and that as of now, no carnivore curricula exists in any format within the United States relevant to the needs and issues faced by youth living alongside grizzly bears. Further conversations with tribal wildlife biologists and Salish Kootenai College researchers confirmed the need for this project. In February 2023, Stephanie received Institutional Review Board support and approval from Salish Kootenai College. 

This project remains relevant to community interests and needs by utilizing Indigenous Research Methodologies and Indigenous Social Justice Pedagogies to maintain high levels of communication and transparency with the communities themselves. IRMs prioritize the seven Rs of Indigenous research and ways of knowing and doing: Respect, Reciprocity, Responsibility, Relevancy, Relationship, Representation, and Resiliency. Thus, IRMs are meant to be highly communicative, transparent, and iterative processes that leave space for the input and consent of all partners. Five feedback points have been embedded within the current structure of this project’s methodology. This will ensure that community engagement and consent are ongoing as the project develops. 

Indigenous social justice pedagogies (ISJP) are methods of teaching which aim to empower youth by privileging Indigenous epistemologies and worldview. This approach to teaching is holistic in nature and uses culturally relevant practices, songs, stories, ceremonies, games, etc. to engage and nurture students. ISJPs are largely place-based . Place-based learning models allow for current topics and issues within communities and their surrounding environments to be brought into learning spaces. 

Finally, the Tribes stand to benefit from this project as the curriculum and its corresponding virtual platform will be held and owned by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes ensuring that they have the right and ability to benefit from any and all further development and distribution of the curriculum. Future development could include collaboration with tribes across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, California, and maybe even Canada or Mexico! Any tribe who lives with carnivores or who seeks to restore large carnivores to their ancestral homelands may look to the resources owned by the Flathead Indian Reservation as a model and seek to modify these resources to be relevant to their specific sci-cultural knowledges, communities, and conservation goals. Successful and lasting conservation of a species occurs when the communities living with and around that species are on board with the conservation work being done. Engagement and education around large carnivore coexistence is a meaningful way to connect with communities and has the power to influence conservation success both today and in the future.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

This team is distinctly qualified and equipped to address natural resources curricula in Indigenous communities. 

Dr. Diana Doan-Crider is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, and of Tepehuan heritage and of german-irish descent. She has spent 30 years working with rural communities in northern Mexico mitigating human-bear conflicts (Ursus americanus) and developing solutions to control attractants and resolve bear predation on cattle. She spent a great deal of time working closely with those communities to develop culture and place-based education approaches that would eventually contribute to the recovery of black bears in Mexico. Furthermore, Diana lived in Montana, attended the University of Montana, and worked for the Border Grizzly Project in the 1980s and 1990s where she learned to work with grizzly bears and with Tribal colleagues. She was also a coordinating member of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group for over 20 years. Diana currently works for Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana, where she is a researcher and instructor.

Dr. Janene Lichtenberg has spent 22 years working for and living in the Flathead Reservation community. She worked for 12 years as a Wildlife Biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Management Program. She began working for Salish Kootenai College in 2013 as faculty and is now the chair of the Wildlife and Fisheries Department that she helped design with partner feedback in 2014. She continues to work with community partners to improve and develop a culturally congruent curriculum. She regularly assists with curriculum development and provides outreach presentations and materials for youth at local schools, summer camps, community events, Boys and Girls Clubs, and hunters education courses. 

Stephanie Barron is of Indigenous Mexican and Chiricahua Apache heritage and German descent but has lived on the traditional homelands of the Selîs in present-day Missoula for the last four years. Stephanie moved to Montana after working in the field of conservation for five years, doing forestry, fisheries, wildlife, and environmental education work. A position with the non-profit People & Carnivores regularly brought her up to the Flathead rez, and through the successful implementation of multiple carnivore-conflict prevention projects she began cultivating relationships with Tribal Wildlife Biologists on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Since leaving People & Carnivores and beginning her graduate studies at the University of Montana Stephanie has maintained those relationships and built upon them through the development of her graduate research project. Stephanie’s connection and commitment to the communities this project seeks to serve go beyond the professional and academic relationships she has fostered. As an Indigenous person herself, responsibility and reciprocity to place is very important. Holding this perspective and these values, Stephanie sees this project as a way to give back to the human and non-human communities and landscapes that have been her home for the last four years.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Drive positive outcomes for Indigenous learners of any age and context through culturally grounded educational opportunities.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Pablo, MT

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • United States

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

How many people does your solution currently serve?

There are 31,631 residents living on the Flathead Reservation, with children making up 24% of the population based on 2021 census data. Twenty-eight percent of the children live below the poverty line. According to Montana Office of Instruction, there are 8 school districts and 23 public schools serving around 7,000 students on the Flathead Reservation. These numbers do not include several private schools or the number of homeschooled students in the area. The physical version of the Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence is being actively co-created by our Solution Lead Stephanie Barron and partners on the Flathead Indian Reservation. All residents of the reservation will be able to download this curricula as soon as it passes final review and receives approval for public release by the Selis and Qlispe Culture Committee in August 2023. Our solution will immediately expand upon the physical education and outreach materials developed for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe by transforming these resources into a virtual platform. This digital format will greatly increase the number of people who have access to carnivore-conflict prevention resources. As Flathead Reservation residents share knowledge of the online curriculum beyond the reservation community, this educational tool has the potential to reach and serve exponentially more people than just those for whom this solution is being specifically designed for. Further, this solution serves the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe as a whole as the tribe will maintain ownership of the curriculum in both its physical and digital forms. Ownership of these fully developed materials ensures that the tribe holds direct authority over any and all future development, modification, and distribution of these educational resources. This serves to maintain tribal sovereignty over the cultural songs, stories, photos, videos, and traditional practices held within the curriculum by recognizing this knowledge as a valuable and protected resource.

Why are you applying to Solve?

As a recipient of the MIT's Alfred P. Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership Micro-grant in the fall of 2022, Stephanie was encouraged to apply to the Indigenous Communities Fellowship because of the potential impact her project has for the human and non-human communities of Northwest Montana. As this project seeks to meet a need identified by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal wildlife biologists and approved by the Selis and Qlispe Culture Committee, and Salish Kootenai College Institutional Review Board. The proposed solution is immediately relevant to the goals and objectives of the Indigenous Communities Fellowship Program. 

Beyond this invitation to apply, the project development team became interested in applying to the Indigenous Communities Fellowship program when we learned of the additional support the program seeks to provide! Specifically relevant to this project would be assistance with how to convert the physical version of the curriculum into an online and interactive format. As no-one on our current project development team has programming or web-design experience, assistance in this area will be necessary in order to meet the goals and needs of the Tribes. We see this fellowship as a fantastic opportunity to learn more about what we do not know and are excited to learn how to fully realize our vision for this solution through the development of software development, coding, and web-based design skills! 

Currently the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe has two other curricula available on their Natural Resource Program page, one on Bull Trout and one on Fire Management. Ideally, adaptation of the Coalescence curriculum could be similar to those resources already available so that the public can easily find and access the curriculum. However, if there are suggestions on how to; or connections who might be able to increase the accessibility formatting of the virtual curriculum then that would be extremely beneficial. Organization, format, and design of the online curriculum should be inviting and exciting for both youth and adult users. 

Our team has many ideas about how existing activities held within the physical curriculum can be adapted into interactive online mini-games for students. Project partners have shared visions of an online carnivore coexistence curriculum that includes audio and video recordings of Selis elders sharing relevant stories or songs embedded into the online platform. Other hopes for the virtual program would be that all lessons, activities, and resources could be available in English, Selis, and Spanish. This will increase the reach and potential impact of this curriculum and significantly become a potential learning and practicing tool for Selis and Qlispe language learners. Actualizing these visions and technological ideas is precisely where the support and expertise of the network provided through this fellowship would be most appreciated!

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. delivery, logistics, expanding client base)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Stephanie Barron

Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.

Chiricahua Apache

How is your Team Lead connected to the community or communities in which your project is based?

Stephanie Barron is of Indigenous Mexican and Chiricahua Apache heritage and German descent but has lived on the traditional homelands of the Selîs in present-day Missoula for the last four years. Being of service to a larger community is a fundamental part of her worldview as an Indigenous person. As such, the work she has chosen to do through this research project seeks to meet a need that she has identified at the confluence of the human-carnivore conflict, education, and research communities. 

Stephanie moved to Montana after working in the field of conservation for five years, doing forestry, fisheries, wildlife, and environmental education work. She started her graduate journey during the 2019 Covid pandemic. While furloughed from her full time job she began working for People & Carnivores and simultaneously began the Natural Resource Conflict Resolution certificate at the University of Montana. It was in pursuit of this certificate that she first became aware of the need for youth education materials around carnivore conflict prevention by interviewing 11 carnivore specialists in Northwest Montana. These needs were further highlighted through an internship she completed with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) in 2022. During this internship she explored the conservation potential of 4-H youth in Montana and identified a significant gap in carnivore education and outreach materials. 

This project will seek to directly address the need Stephanie has identified during the last three years of work, research, and relationship building. As an Indigenous person, place is very important. So too is an understanding of the reciprocal responsibilities we have to place. Holding this perspective and these values, Stephanie sees this project as a way to give back to the human and non-human communities and landscapes that have been her home for the last four years. She has invested time in relationship-building with this place. From creating and fostering relationships with members of both the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Tribes to hiking, foraging, and sleeping beneath the conifers. She has witnessed several complete cycles of grizzly bear torpor and lark renewal and feels a deep sense of gratitude for the human and non-human communities that have welcomed her here. Stephanie’s position as a settler and visitor working and living on and off of stolen Selîs land makes her eager to find ways to give back to the first peoples of Montana and the place itself. 

Stephanie’s ancestry ties her in equal measures to the mountains and deserts of Mexico and the forests of Germany. In all of her ancestors’ homelands large carnivores have been present, so it has felt fitting to work with large carnivores here in present day Montana where the conservation efforts so often serve as models for the rest of the world.

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

In general, educational material for younger ages regarding carnivore coexistence has been limited to date. Within the United States only two formal curricula exist that have been appropriately designed to engage younger audiences. However, one of these curricula was made for students living in California and therefore does not include conflict-prevention information on grizzly bear or wolf, it also did not include any information about the local Indigenous culture, communities, or their traditional conflict-prevention techniques. The Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence contains relevant knowledge on all large carnivore species currently residing in the continental U.S and was made in collaboration with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes - and specifically members of the Tribal Natural Resource Program, Salish Kootenai College, Institutional Review Boards of SKC, and Selis & Qlispe Culture Committee - of northwest Montana. Transformation of the Coalescence Curriculum from its current physical version into a digital platform, will be the first time coexistence resources and information specifically relevant for youth are provided in the virtual space! This will greatly increase the accessibility youth have to these knowledge and resources and serve as a powerful model for other Indigenous communities. 

Significantly, our solution utilizes Indigenous Social Justice Pedagogies which privileges Indigenous epistemologies and worldviews, develops a sense of self tied to place, and facilitates connectedness with one’s environment, community, family, and heritage. This decolonial approach to our solution is unique as most educational materials that are made available to Indigenous communities are westernized and are lacking in – or completely disregard and erase –  culturally relevant world views and perspectives. By utilizing Indigenous social justice  Pedagogies our solution flips this paradigm and actively teaches students to engage with human-carnivore conflict and coexistence through a sci-cultural lens.

With the advent of digital technology, which includes the digitization of educational material, social media, and online learning, conservationists are challenged in keeping up with these new pedagogical approaches for teaching children. Thus, this project is innovative and progressive because it will be a prototype for how conservation education in a technologically advancing world should be approached in the future. Our sci-cultural approach to the creation of the digital version of the Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence will be culturally respectful, and able to meet the culture- and place-based educational needs of the tribal communities we seek to serve.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our goal is to provide youth living in the Flathead Valley with the practical skills and local sci-cultural knowledge needed to peacefully coexist with carnivores, yet succeed in their future livestock husbandry, farming endeavors, other land uses, or simply a peaceful coexistence in their communities. Within the next year, our solution will increase our ability to connect and engage youth on the Flathead Indian Reservation through the development of an interactive multimedia virtual curriculum. However, public access to this virtual curriculum will enable youth on and off the reservation to have access to the sci-cultural resources and skills held within. Thus, the potential reach of the curriculum in this online format is exponential. 

Within five years, we expect that this curriculum in its physical and virtual format will serve as a model to other tribal communities looking to reconnect their community members and local ecosystems with large carnivores. We currently know of several other tribal communities - including the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, the Makah Reservation of Washington, and Paiute Indians of Nevada - who are experiencing increasing human-carnivore conflict and who would be extremely interested in modifying this curriculum content and activities to include their traditional sci-cultural knowledges, stories, songs, and conflict prevention techniques. Through continued tribal partnership and collaboration we hope to foster future generations who are able to prevent and adapt to instances of human-carnivore conflict, thus facilitating a reality where both humans and carnivores can coexist throughout the continental U.S and abroad.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 15. Life on Land
  • 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Our goal is to reduce human-carnivore conflicts through the virtual Coalescence Carnivore Coexistence Curriculum platform. Through this digital format we hope to increase the number of people we are able to educate on the topic of carnivore coexistence. 

We will measure our success both quantitatively and qualitatively. Raw data on website visitation, electric fence installations, bear-safe trash bin deployment, large carnivore mortality, large-carnivore relocation, and reported human-carnivore conflicts will be collected annually. We anticipate that as the number of virtual visitations to the digital curriculum platform rise, there will be a decline in reported human-carnivore conflict incidents across the reservation. Specifically, we hope to see a decrease in livestock, and hobby farm animal depredation, and trash related incidents. We will better understand these quantitative results through qualitative research consisting of interviews with Tribal Wildlife Biologists and regional carnivore-conflict specialists. By interviewing the people responsible for responding to carnivore-conflicts and educating the public on conflict-prevention tools and technologies these individuals will have important insight and ideas about how and why incidents of carnivore-conflict change -either positively or negatively- over time. As these individuals were the ones to first identify the need for this project on the Flathead Indian Reservation they will be the most qualified to articulate the impact this digital resource has made for the communities they serve directly. This mixed-method approach will ensure that we do not over or under value one result over another but instead consider a holistic measure of progress and success. 

Beyond annual reviews, we will rely on ongoing communication and feedback from partners as the primary indicator of project’s progress. Feedback loops already built into the methodological structure of this project will provide regular opportunities for partners to express their ideas, recommendations, concerns, and suggestions to the solution team. Ensuring that our solution stays relevant to the needs and interests of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe is of utmost importance. Therefore, we will actively seek to hold ourselves and our proposed solution accountable to the communities we seek to serve. 

Progress within the project can also be considered through the following UN Sustainable Development Goals whose targets are relevant to our proposed solution: 2.4, 4.3, 4.4, 4.7, 5.b, 8.2, 8.8, 9.1, 9.4, 11.3, 11.4, 12.2, 12.8, 15.4, 15.5, 15.9, 16.6, and 16.7.

What is your theory of change?

Human-carnivore conflict (HCC) is a dynamic facet of the relationship between carnivorous/omnivorous species that has existed since time immemorial. As human and non-human beings evolved to prefer carnivorous and omnivorous diets, food webs grew to connect them through competition for food and habitat. This competition led to millennia of coevolution, coadaptation, and symbiosis between carnivorous species and their larger ecosystems. Coexistence between humans and non-human carnivores has never meant that there has been a lack of conflict, but among many Indigenous people on this continent, much of the relationship was grounded in cultural reverence and respect, and included a better understanding of the human-carnivore relationship as part of a whole and healthy system vs. one of competition. Thus, coexistence was permitted despite the potential conflict that could occur between organisms sharing space on a landscape. 

Conservation today typically refers to HCC as the physical, mental, and --most significantly--  financial forms of harm humans experience due to carnivorous existence on shared landscapes. In the last 100 years mountain lions have killed over 100 people in the United States. In Montana alone, HCC resulted in over $200,000 in lost revenue in 2021, and close to $400,000 in 2022 due to depredation. This cost in life, money, and time has jeopardized the relationship that exists between humans and carnivores as further conflict increases human’s perceived risk of carnivores as a whole. 

Since colonization, risk perception is now informed by the larger narratives told within our society, such as learned dichotomies between humans and nature, and false supremacies of humans over nature. These social narratives and perspectives inform wildlife management, carnivore policy decisions, and general attitudes towards carnivores across the so-called United States. Stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs which specifically come from European traditions have significantly informed settler-American perceptions of carnivores. These stories portray large carnivores as villains and direct threats to the health and safety of the human main characters, which is difficult to dislodge from overarching and westernized societal systems. 

HCC can be reduced and mitigated. Strategies developed tens of thousands of years ago – such as bomas, range riders, and livestock guardian dogs are still effective and updated versions of historic technology and techniques can further prevent conflict. The issue conservationists have today is wrestling with preexisting perceptions of risk while reintroducing knowledge and skills around human-carnivore conflict prevention that have existed since time immemorial. 

We believe the key to facilitating a shift in risk perception around large carnivores is through decolonial youth education and human-carnivore-conflict-prevention. By teaching youth how they can succeed in their personal endeavors, maintain adaptive relationships with the land and their cultural traditions, and coexist with carnivores, we stand to fundamentally shift the relationship future generations have with large carnivores. A healthy and positive relationship with large carnivores could greatly facilitate their continued existence on the land which will mean healthier ecosystems for us all.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The core technology powering our solution are the traditional conflict-prevention techniques and tools Selis and Qlispe people have developed over the last 30,000 years to coexist with large carnivores. These techniques primarily include humans participating in an active and reciprocal relationship with their homelands. Adaptive land management requires human residents to acknowledge the vital role large carnivores play within a healthy ecosystem and find creative ways to live with these animals rather than fight against their continued presence. Reciprocal recognition severs the current dualism of  “us vs. them” and encourages humans of all ages to ask instead “how can we live as good neighbors to our carnivore relatives?” 

Our solution fosters residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation to use more adaptive approaches to land management and carnivore-conflict prevention by braiding this traditional knowledge with modern tools and technologies. Some of these “modern” tools available to residents include electric fences, bear safe garbage bins, and fladry. However, most of these electric and plastic technologies simply mimic traditional technologies such as bomas, human presence amongst livestock, and conscious waste disposal. Thus, through our solution we hope to highlight the history of how traditional techniques and modern technologies have already been braided to develop the current toolkit available to humans. 

From this understanding, we aim to continue this plait of traditional wisdom with advancing technology through the transformation of our physical curriculum into a multimedia interactive virtual format! New residents and community members moving to the Flathead Indian Reservation as well as youth need access to a learning platform which can empower them to feel comfortable and capable of living alongside large carnivores. Each carnivore species requires the implementation of a specific conflict-prevention tool based on their behavior, food preference, size, and physical capability. Our solution will connect residents with the traditional approach to conflict-prevention found in adaptive land management by making the knowledge of conflict-prevention tools, reciprocal relationship, and animal behavior immediately accessible via an online education platform.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Behavioral Technology
  • Biomimicry
  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which parts of the US and/or Canada do you currently operate?

Rocky Mountain West

In which parts of the US and/or Canada will you be operating within the next year?

Rocky Mountain West

Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

Our solution team is comprised of four people. Two full-time Animo staff members and two contractors.

How long have you been working on your solution?

Conceptualization of the project began in 2019, after the Team Lead conducted a conflict assessment on human-carnivore conflict in Northwest Montana. Development of the curriculum began in 2022. Collectively, our team has 60 years of experience informing the need for and design of this solution.

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

To date, all members of Animo Partnership in Natural Resources represent underrepresented groups, such as Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, and disabled. We achieve equity by partnering with individuals from underrepresented groups who have the expertise, cultural knowledge, perspectives and experiences needed to represent the topics upon which we work, such as identifying disconnects for inclusion and equity in natural resources. 

Within our work, we uphold our commitment to equity through active engagement with the communities we seek to serve through this solution. Genuine collaboration with partners, and especially Indigenous partners, to us means that these partners have the opportunity to withdraw consent for further project development at any time without any fear of redress or consequence. If at any point consent is withdrawn, we commit to fully recognizing and complying with that decision. The relationships built through this process are not temporary but lasting, in that we at Animo Partnership in Natural Resources refuse to be extractive in our approach. Instead we encourage partners, and especially partners from historically marginalized communities or demographic groups to maintain and flex rights of data and product sovereignty, protection of cultural resources, and adherence to Institutional Review Board processes. 

Within this solution specifically, we are using Indigenous Research Methodologies and Indigenous Social Justice Pedagogies as frameworks for curriculum development and digital design. Both of these frameworks challenge hierarchical structures of interaction and encourage reciprocal feedback loops of communication and transparency. Be they partners, students, teachers, youth, or elders, and from all those we hope to engage through our solution, we welcome feedback so that we can continue to provide the most relevant and helpful online coexistence resources possible to the Flathead Indian Reservation community!

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?


Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Animo Partnership partners with various federal and Tribal organizations. We co-create projects that are tailored to these entities’ needs utilizing surplus funding or special project allocations. Each member of our solution team has experience building relationships with Indigenous communities, and as a team, works closely with community members to identify projects that are relevant to their culture and place-based needs. For example, during the development of the Coalescence Curriculum on Carnivore Coexistence, partners at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Natural Resource Department, and the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Department received approval from their supervisors to include work on the curriculum as a part of their job descriptions. No additional funding was needed to support the collaborative development of the physical curriculum. Partners invested their own time and resources into addressing the immediate carnivore-conflict concerns this curriculum seeks to mitigate. 

We see the potential for further partnership and financial support by connecting with language revitalization efforts. As our solution is designed to privilege Indigenous epistemologies and worldviews, the inclusion of the native languages that hold the origin of the sci-cultural knowledge we seek to share with youth is key! Thus, we see an exciting opportunity to work with language revitalization groups to see how our virtual curriculum can be translated into Selis and Qlispe, how the interactive activities we design for our digital platform can encourage the learning of these Indigenous languages, and or how the curriculum can be used as a place for new language learners to practice their comprehension and translation skills. 

Another way we imagine maintaining fiscal sustainability is through partnerships with academic institutions with a particular emphasis toward Tribal Colleges and Universities. Because this entire effort is focused on the next generation, we are identifying facets of the project that may be suitable as paid internship opportunities for undergraduate students. As the next generation of scholars, educators, and land managers look to develop their skill sets and build their resumes for their future careers, well-paying internship positions provide valuable opportunities to grow their professional networks and contribute to meaningful work. We are actively working with the academic institutions in our area - i.e Salish Kootenai College and University of Montana - to develop well paying internship opportunities for students interested in experiential learning around curriculum development, Selis language studies, cultural preservation, and wildlife biology. By tapping into the grant writing capacity of academic institutions, who are increasingly interested in providing their students with experiential learning opportunities, we see a ways both maintain and increase our capacity while supporting the Indigenous community we seek to serve.

When we consider the future of this project and long term goals we feel confident that we will remain competitive as a recipient for continued grant support, federal partnership, and tribal collaboration. Given that this project operates at the nexus of youth education, traditional ecological knowledge revitalization, and technological advancement we are excited to continue to pursue partnerships, collaborations, and service contracts that facilitate carnivore coexistence across the country!

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Thus far, the Lead Solver has successfully applied for and received over $70,000 in scholarships and grants towards the development of this solution. This money so far has supported the initial research and community relationship building needed in order to collaboratively develop the curriculum. Funders for this solution include: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Indigenous Scholars Program, The Wyss U.S Conservation Fellowship Program, the University of Montana, M.I.T Micro-grant program benefiting Indigenous Communities, and the Wildlife Conservation Network.

Dr. Diana Doan-Crider, President of Animo Partnership in Natural Resources, LLC,  has successfully raised over $1,630,000 (not including $512,000 that she raised for black bear research in northern Mexico) for projects associated with those listed on the Social Business Model. Most of this funding, however, was formerly hosted through academic institutions or non-profit organizations. Animo Partnership in Natural Resources is now functioning as an LLC with federal government registration as a Woman and Minority Owned Business so that we can receive and manage our own funding.

Solution Team

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