The Rangifer Anatomy Project: Linking community and scientific approaches to caribou structure and function
Principal Investigator: Brook, Ryan K (1)
Licence Number: 14494
Organization: University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Licenced Year(s): 2009
Issued: Mar 27, 2009
Project Team: Dr. Christoph Muelling (anatomist, University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), Dr. Susan Kutz (wildlife health ecologist, University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), Dr. Ryan Brook (wildlife health ecologist and traditional knowledge coordinator, University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine)

Objective(s): The proposed research will develop and evaluate innovative tools and processes to help better understand caribou anatomy and facilitate caribou health.

Project Description: The proposed research will develop and evaluate innovative tools and processes to help better understand caribou anatomy and facilitate caribou health.

Specific objectives of this project are to:
1. Engage communities in the planning, data collection, interpretation, and integration of traditional knowledge into an anatomical atlas of caribou as a tool to facilitate monitoring the health of the caribou in the face of environmental change.
2. Evaluate interactions between scientists and communities throughout the process of collaboratively developing a caribou anatomy atlas and associated tools and their use in human and wildlife health communication.

Studying the anatomy of caribou and reindeer will be done through two approaches: dissecting animals in the lab in the south and having scientists work with hunters, elders, and youth on the land during subsistence caribou hunts. Observing and recording how different communities use caribou and the names and uses they have for different parts will be a key part of the project. When a hunter harvests a caribou the researchers will ask the elders and hunters that are at the camp to share their knowledge and stories of different caribou uses for medicine and food, and what makes a healthy or unhealthy caribou. The process will involve 'recruitment' of all people participating on the land trip to Artillery Lake that feel they have some knowledge of caribou that they wish to share. The process will not be a formalized interview but will include questions about caribou anatomy from the outside fur through the internal organs and bones and will vary depending on the participants' individual areas of expertise and what they wish to talk about. Depending on the wishes of the participants, these discussions will be conducted primarily on the land during caribou butchering but may also be done individually away from the group or back at their home in Lutsel K'e and these will be either videotaped, have only the sound recorded using a digital recorder, or only recorded with written notes, depending on the wishes of the participants. Photographs of the different parts of the caribou will be taken, with the permission of the participating hunters and elders that will be used in the atlas project. The researcher anticipates between 10-30 study participants, but this will depend on how many community members participate on this trip to Artillery Lake and how many are willing to participate in the study. He anticipates that these interviews will last from 20-60 minutes each, depending on the nature of the information shared by each participant- some may wish to tell longer stories, while others may share shorter stories or provide different types of information on caribou anatomy.

Depending on the wishes of the hunters and elders, the university anatomists may dissect certain parts of hunter-harvested caribou during the conversations while hunters are butchering in order to demonstrate some scientific perspectives on caribou anatomy or in response to questions asked by community members but this will only be done with the permission of the community members present.

Participation by the researchers directly with the school on their trip on the land will involve direct interactions with elders, youth, hunters, and teachers through discussions during the entire trip and during butchering of caribou that are harvested by local hunters during the trip, as well the principal investigator will spend at least one full day in the school working with the youth. Sharing of scientific and traditional knowledge is the primary rationale for this project. Development of educational resources in the form of internet and print information on caribou anatomy will be useful resources for a wide range of users and these will include both traditional and scientific information linked together which will facilitate communication and understanding of caribou ecology and health.

Results will be made available in the form of an anatomical atlas of caribou/reindeer in both internet and print format which will be provided to the school and community, as well as peer-reviewed publications, and a set of posters will be sent to the school and community. If there is sufficient interest and financial resources the researcher will return to the community and work with the students in the school to share findings and discuss outcomes.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 28 to April 04, 2009, in the Artillery Lake region, and potentially in Lutsel K’e (home interviews). Specific location will depend on where caribou are and where the community chooses to set up their camp for their trip on the land but the researcher expects it to be in the Artillery Lake region, 63°18'19”N 107°55'22”W.