SWEEP - The Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program
Principal Investigator: Bharadwaj, Lalita A (2)
Licence Number: 15296
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2014 2013
Issued: Jul 19, 2013
Project Team: Paul Jones (PI) (Athabasca/Peace/Slave river fish health assessment program., University of Saskatchewan), Lalita Bharadwaj (Community-Based Monitoring, U of S), Lorne Doige (Aquatic Invertebrates Assessment, U of S), Karl Lindenschmidt (Hydrological Modelling, U of S), Tim Jardine (Ecology/Fish Biology/Bayesian, U of S), Dan Summers (Partner faciliate student engagement , Principal Deninu School Fort Resolution), Ted Moes (Field experience/student curriculum, Science Teacher Deninu School), Sarah Rosolen (Facilitate student engagement/monitoring of SRD, Aurora Research Institute)

Objective(s): To develop a Community Based Monitoring (CBM) program titled the Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program (SWEEP), to empower communities to collect, interpret and use a system of environmental indicators to address these priorities.

Project Description: In collaboration with the Slave River and Delta Partnership (SRDP) and local communities, the research team will develop a Community Based Monitoring (CBM) program titled the Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program (SWEEP), to empower communities to collect, interpret and use a system of environmental indicators to address these priorities. The focus will be on indicators of cumulative effects defined as changes to the environment (bio-physical, built, social) that are caused by an action in combination with other past, present and future human actions.

The SWEEP program will use a community-based participatory research (CBPR) methodology to develop a CBM program. CBPR is community situated, collaborative, and action oriented with researchers and community groups creating new knowledge and understanding of relevance to the community. Community members and researchers share control of the research agenda through active and reciprocal involvement in research design, implementation, and dissemination.

The research team will partner closely with the SRDP for involvement with communities. The SRDP has representatives from all Aboriginal groups and is experienced in governance of TK in the communities. SWEEP will be based on the principles of “Ownership, Control, Access and Possession” (OCAP).

A workshop in communities will introduce the research team, review proposed activities, and will engage communities within their context. Researchers will provide communities with information on the nature of the research and potential meanings and impacts for the community. Researchers will develop an understanding of community protocol and the incorporation of cultural knowledge into planning, methodology, participation, and capacity building strategies. Communities will be informed of the proposed data collection methods including those related to the respectful acquisition and documentation of TK (sharing circles, interviews, photovoice). This workshop will also outline the proposed CBM framework and will seek community input on how and where CBM will be carried out. Soon after Workshop (1) researchers will return to provide training.

Traditional knowledge will be gathered through sharing circles and/or one to one interviews. Sharing circles will be facilitated to allow all community members to voice their stories of changes in the SRD. This methodology adapts focus group methods to be consistent with the goals and procedures of the traditional First Nations communities, provides a culturally appropriate method of developing a deep and broad understanding of Indigenous participants’ verbal descriptions of their feelings, perspectives, and experiences and enables them to truly engage as co-researchers. Sharing circles and interviews will be held in each community with interested Elders, community members, and youth. Sharing circles will consist of groups of approximately 5-6 individuals, ideally with adequate representation of men and women, age groups, and years in the community. Qualitative data will be collected on the perceived magnitude and significance of challenges, gaps and barriers to current and future water monitoring (Type 1 indicators), water related health and social issues, the duration and frequency of occurrence of such issues, local sensitivity to and reversibility of issues, community members most affected, perceived economic costs of issues, and perceived community capacity for community based water monitoring. This ongoing process will also aim to address alterations in the influence of the seasons. A research guide with unstructured, open-ended questions, developed in collaboration with all partners will be used to encourage participant sharing and connectedness within the sharing circle environment. The 1-1.5 hour sessions will be taped using digital voice recorders. One year later, the sharing circles will be revisited with the same communities and the results compared to determine the impact of any changes associated with the SRD, monitoring objectives, indicators, and program requirements (capacity, educational training needs etc.).

This research will build local community capacity in water research (social and scientific methods), monitoring and management. Key partners for SWEEP are the Aurora College and the Deninu School. These institutions will provide ‘hubs’ for the collection of information and for the long term storage of data, samples and equipment. In partnership the research team will enhance local student traditional and western scientific knowledge through facilitating youth/Elder engagement and direct hands on learning in data acquisition (social and scientific) water monitoring methods and techniques.

SWEEP in partnership with local communities will develop a range of environmental indicators (Type 1) to assess changes in the ecological ‘health’ of the Slave River and Delta. Type 1 indicators, may be biological measurements, include observations incorporating local and Traditional Knowledge (TK), will be measured by communities and provide the core of the ongoing sustainable community directed monitoring program. It is through this research license that TK will be gathered. TK is not currently and formally utilized in decision making around water quality and resource management and it is anticipated that through this research a sustainable CBM program will be developed that will corporate TK effectively and in a culturally appropriate way to inform and give community voice in water related decisions in the region.

Training of community members in qualitative and community based research methodologies will be an outcome of this specific activity under SWEEP. Training in survey development, interviews, sharing circle/focus group facilitation recording (audio, visual, written) and analysis. These are skills (technical, management and organizational) that can be transferred to other employment opportunities beyond this research activity. To provide linkage to western science and regulatory procedures Type 2, western science indicators will be developed and provide an initial baseline assessment of the condition of the river system. SWEEP faculty will provide community training in techniques and procedures related to Type 2 indicators. The lead on Type 2 indicator work has applied for a separate license for these activities.

A variety of data is currently collected by various agencies, however, it is not accessible or in a form acceptable, to communities. Thus in cooperation with communities, SWEEP will develop a system to integrate current and local monitoring data, inclusive of TK, that is acceptable and accessible by the local communities so that communities will have the tools, data and knowledge to inform policy and regulatory decisions that impact their territory.

As the first Canadian Water Network consortium established in Canada’s north, SWEEP will inform the community of practitioners about issues and governance specific to this vast portion of Canada from the perspective of the community. Identifying, from the community voice, the unique social and environmental issues related to water regulation, management and monitoring in the area and developing community based environmental indicators will provide the tools and procedures significant to water governance consortia across Canada with an Indigenous perspective. In particular, development of relevant community based bioindicators, based on a variety of environmental/social/health stressors of relevance to the north, will assist in the establishment of similar programs across the north.

Communication of results will be continuous and in various and multiple forms (presentations, podcasts, posters, pamphlets, reports as well as typical academic venues) . It is anticipated that communication will occur directly following workshops as well as sharing circles/interviews. Due to the collaborative nature of this research, communities and research partners will establish the forms and timelines for communicating results. This is likely to occur during the first workshop with communities.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 22, 2013 to October 6, 2013.