Using Inuvialuit and Gwich'in observations to monitor environmental change in the Mackenzie Delta Region

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, environmental monitoring, traditional knowledge, environmental change, community engagement

Principal Investigator: Lantz, Trevor C. (22)
Licence Number: 15195
Organization: University of Victoria
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Issued: Feb 04, 2013

Objective(s): To work with Inuvialuit and Gwich’in experts to document and share local observations of environmental conditions.

Project Description: The objective of this research is to work with Inuvialuit and Gwich’in experts to document and share local observations of environmental conditions. Over time, this will build a record of observations, against which future changes can be compared. To document local observations this research will employ methods including participatory photo-mapping, participatory-video, web-based mapping, photo-elicitation interviews, and field based video-interviews. This research project builds on, and complements, a collaborative research and monitoring effort between the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat, the Gwich'in Tribal Council (Lands and Resources), the Mackenzie Delta Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and Dr. Trevor Lantz (University of Victoria).

Participatory photo mapping:
This research will employ participatory photo mapping (PPM) techniques to integrate digital video and photography with field interviews with local experts. PPM combines participatory photography and video, web-based mapping, and lived experience interviews to capture the participant’s experience out on the land in the Mackenzie Delta Region (MDR). The PPM protocol was developed and tested in 2010. It successfully recorded local observations grounded in traditional knowledge, and linked these observations of disturbances and anomalous environmental conditions with geo-referenced photos, which were entered into a web-based map.

The research team will continue to implement and fine-tune the PPM protocol in the Mackenzie Delta Region. In the first step of the PPM process, participants will take part in a digital tools skill-building session that focuses on familiarizing participants with digital cameras, audio recording devices, and global positioning system (GPS). Subsequently, local youth will be paired with Inuvialuit knowledge holders. Out on the land the pair will document environmental conditions with photographs, and videos georeferenced using GPS units. At the site of an environmental observation, the youth will ask the expert a series of questions about the observation. The expert response will be filmed and transcribed. The text of the interview, portions of video and still photographs will be entered into the web-based map, geo-referenced to the exact place the observation was made. The interviews will be recorded with both a digital camera, and a digital audio recording device. The PPM outings on the land will be facilitated with the aim of training key Inuvialuit youth to conduct the interviews, record the video, and capture still digital images at each observation site. PPM participants will be selected through consultation with the Hunters and Trappers Committees (HTC’s), Renewable Resource Councils (RRC’s), the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat (IJS) and the Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC).

This research project will greatly facilitate communication between local experts, scientists, and decision makers. Over the past several years observations shared between community experts and scientists have significantly informed the nature and scope of environmental research at the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, Carleton University, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and Natural Resources Canada. Using a web-based map to store and organize the knowledge documented as a part of this program will ensure a larger number of stakeholders can benefit from local knowledge and perspectives.

This research project involves close collaboration with community members through local HTC and RRC. This research pursues community-driven research goals identified by local HTC members, and will provide opportunity for local youth and elders to spend time together out on the land, which will contribute to relationship building, knowledge sharing, and skill-building. This work will also build local capacity to understand and monitor environmental change. By facilitating the recording and documenting of local expert’s knowledge and observations of environmental conditions, it will help youth to develop the ability to facilitate ongoing monitoring. This research will also improve the understanding of the ecological and social consequences of northern environmental change.

Social, Cultural, & Education Benefits
Annual knowledge exchange camps associated with this project provide an opportunity for local youth, elders, and scientists to spend time together out on the land. At the camp, participants have the opportunity to talk about environmental changes and share perspectives and experiences. Youth will also gain insights into environmental impacts and gain technical skills (digital photography, GPS, video capture, and mapping skills) that build local capacity to document, record, and monitor change.

Communications Plan
The research team will meet with the project steering committee twice annually and present project findings at research meetings in the Mackenzie Delta Region (Inuvik Research Days, Gwich’in Water Summit, etc.). Plain language project deliverables, including a summary poster and presentation, will be made available to schools, and interested community members. Trevor Bennett (monitoring coordinator), will capture and edit a short video that showcases Inuvialuit Knowledge and observations, youth stewardship of that knowledge, and local understanding of environmental change. Short videos are a powerful and effective communication tool for sharing information with local community and HTC members. The short video will be available online.

Web-Based Map
The team will use open-source web-based mapping software (Drupal) to organize and communicate the observations made by local experts. By recording local observations and organizing them in a community map this project will make the knowledge of local land users accessible (

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 4, 2013 to December 31, 2013.