Ethnobiology is well positioned to work in tandem with biomonitoring research to create a more complete understanding of how people experience and are affected by contaminated environments. Indigenous communities in proximity to unconventional natural gas (“fracking”) facilities face potential health risks that are often poorly assessed or not assessed at all. This contribution reviews a biomonitoring pilot research project in British Columbia (Canada) that was informed by Indigenous Peoples' concerns of contaminant exposure from traditional foods and their environment. Preliminary biomonitoring results indicate higher levels of a benzene metabolite in pregnant Indigenous women near fracking facilities, compared to what measured in non-Indigenous women. We investigate how Indigenous Peoples' concerns of exposure to industrial contaminants should inform biomonitoring and toxicological studies and, conversely, how biomonitoring studies can complement ethnobiological research with assessable data. By focusing on environmental knowledge and human health in the context of oil and gas development, we critically evaluate how action, environmental justice, and scientific research can and should contribute to more ethical and methodological frameworks and practices. Together, ethnobiology and biomonitoring can be used to fill in important knowledge gaps in environmental health and ethical research practices.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1