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Scientists share research results
International Polar Year studies revisited

Kira Curtis
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 27, 2011

INUVIK - Twenty-one International Polar Year research groups returned to Inuvik last week to update the community on what they discovered.

"The researchers needed to come back here and talk to the communities and the logical site was Inuvik because this was where the vast majority of the work was co-ordinated," said Alana Mero, International Polar Year co-ordinator with Aurora Research Institute.

NNSL photo/graphic

Researchers crowded the walls of Sir Alexander Mackenzie School gym with displays last week to show results of their International Polar Year studies. - Kira Curtis/NNSL photo

International Polar Year is an international scientific project for research in the Arctic and Antarctic that went on over two years, between March 2007 and March 2009.

The range of studies was so broad the presentations during the three-day event in Inuvik covered everything from environment, wildlife, living conditions, health, and search and rescue.

The event was held Jan. 19 to 21 in the Sir Alexander Mackenzie School gym. Some researchers went from class to class talking to kids in kindergarten to Grade 12 about their projects.

Mero said of the 52 polar year projects in Canada, the majority were co-ordinated from Inuvik. Mero said the reason for this was researchers were more interested in studying north of the Arctic Circle than below it, and of the four Northern Co-ordination Offices, Inuvik was the only one in the Arctic.

Mero added the Beaufort Delta has a vast range of biology and geography north of the Arctic Circle because of the animal and plant life that follows the Mackenzie River.

The researchers came back to Inuvik to relay what they found in the Delta and how it can affect the communities here.

"You have to come out of this with results communities can use, and what you'll hear from communities is they want research that is results-based," Mero said.

She added the idea is to take all the information and compile it into one large meta-database so governments and communities can access it, either as a base to conduct more research or to have facts to implement changes.

"We already know there's crowding in housing in many Northern communities, but now we have hard data where we can turn around a say to policy makers 'look, we need to do something here, here's the data that backs it up,'" Mero said by way of example. "You get a lot of anecdotal stories about how crowded something is or that it's not working, but when you come at it with hard data, nobody can argue with you."

This is the fourth International Polar Year in more than 100 years. The first was 1882-3, then again in 1932-3 and 1957-8.

When the 2007-8 polar year was in the planning stages, organizers were hit with the massive task of tracking down and compiling information from half a century ago. At some points, IPY organizers ended up sorting though people's attics and storage to track down research papers. Mero says that information gathered during this polar year will made easily accessible.

"We're going to save a lot of money in that a researcher doesn't have to mount such a large expedition to come back or if they are coming and doing similar research then they've got this data as a comparison," Mero said.

Another change this time around, was to communicate with Northern communities to find out what they are interested in, what affects them and what answers they would like to know.

More than 1,750 researchers in 23 countries took part in the IPY project and it will take months to put together all the data.

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