A new approach to science rooted in Indigenous tradition

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: If you walk along the beach on the Pacific Northwest coast, you might not notice some very special things. They're called clam gardens, and they've been sitting along the shore for thousands of years.

MARCO HATCH: Clam gardens are these really special intertidal spaces where for thousands of years, Indigenous people moved rocks to the low tide line to terrace the beach, just like you could terrace a hill to grow more grapes. You can terrace a beach to increase the area for clams to live.

CHAKRABARTI: That's Marco Hatch. He's an associate professor at Western Washington University in environmental science and a member of the Samish Indian Nation. He's also a clam garden expert.

Now, clam gardens are an Indigenous innovation that's essentially a rock wall along the shoreline. These structures allow the rising tides to bring sediment over the rock wall to create an ideal habitat for the clams. But then during low tide, it creates an exposed beach that's ideal for harvesting.

Hatch says clams' grown in gardens are two to four times the size of other clams. And the gardens are 150% to 300% more productive than wild beaches.