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Climate change workshops involve communities
Community-based monitoring on agenda

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 21, 2011

INUVIK - The younger generation of hunters and trappers in the Arctic hope to act as a bridge between elders with traditional knowledge and scientists doing research through community-based monitoring programs.

 NNSL photo/graphic

Hunters harvest a beluga near Sachs Harbour in the summer of 2008. At a workshop last week, the Fisheries Joint Management Committee discussed how it could create standardized community-based monitoring projects. - NNSL file photo

The Fisheries Joint Management Committee of the Inuvialuit Game Council held several workshops from April 12 to 15 at the Midnight Sun Complex in Inuvik last week, with co-organizer ArcticNet, a network of researchers specializing in the impact of climate change on the Arctic.

The workshops showcased research such as contaminants in communities, food security in the Inuvialuit settlement region, seabed mapping of the Beaufort Sea, transience and social cohesion in an Arctic community, the transition of Arctic tundra lakes and an example of a community-based monitoring program that worked.

The groups invited five participants from each of the communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, as well as policy makers and industry people to listen to some of the top Arctic researchers in Canada and help design standardized community-based monitoring programs so they benefit the communities and provide a complete picture of the region.

"There is a structure but it differs in each community. We need to streamline the structure and how the information is recorded," said Kayla Hansen-Craik, a community resource specialist with the Fisheries Joint Management Committee, a subsidiary of the Joint Secretariat of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. "Scientists have been coming to the communities for years and are starting to realize traditional knowledge has value, but we need to include elders because they have the knowledge and youth because they are our future."

Jimmy Kalinek, director of the Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee, said there is a gap between the traditional knowledge of his grandparents and the science of researchers coming to the communities. While his grandparents know how things used to be, Kalinek and his generation know the current conditions and what has changed recently with climate change.

"Our traditional knowledge can contribute to topics being discussed by scientists today," Kalinek said. "Traditional knowledge looks at the whole picture, while science looks at one aspect, like permafrost melting. Traditional knowledge sees which plants are going to move in now that the permafrost is melting and what animals will come to the area and eat those plants."

Kalinek said he would also like to see research topics recommended by the communities to be studied and for the resulting information to stay in the communities.

"Now the researchers take the information and it doesn't come back," said Douglas Esagok, the vice-president of the Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee and the Inuvik appointee to the Inuvialuit Game Council.

"The person collecting the data will report back to the community on actual events, whether it's storms or wildlife."

Esagok said he would like to see a community resident collect data that stays in and as the property of the community. That way if exploration projects come to the community, it already has information available on what would be affected in the environment.

During the workshops, ArcticNet presented some of its research from the past seven years since its inception in 2004. ArcticNet has just been renewed for another seven years which will provide 14 years of data from a collection of experts, who likely have further decades of research before ArcticNet started.

The Fisheries Joint Management Committee hopes to take the feedback from the workshops and create a standardized monitoring program.

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