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, aboriginal community, traditional knowledge, environmental change

Principal Investigator: Lantz, Trevor C. (24)
Licence Number: 15648
Organization: University of Victoria
Licenced Year(s): 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Issued: Mar 12, 2015

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

Project Description: The core 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), Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), 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 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 by University of Victoria (UVIC) researchers, with the aim of training key Inuvialuit and Gwich’in 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 Committee’s (HTCs), Renewable Resource Committee’s (RRCs), and the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat.

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 UVIC, University of British Columbia, Carleton, AANDC and NRCan. 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 HTCs, and RRCs. This research pursues community-driven research goals identified by local HTC/RRC members, and will provide the 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. As a part of this research youth will have the opportunity to learn about local environmental impacts and gain technical skills (digital photography and video, GPS, and mapping). 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
The research method used in this research is called participatory photo-mapping (PPM), a method that combines monitoring activities with other community-driven goals such as spending time out on the land, capacity building, and knowledge transfer between youth and community Knowledge holders. Work completed as a part of this project will contribute to northern capacity to understand, document, and communicate findings regarding environmental change. This project will involve ongoing participation with local experts and community youth. The methods proposed here have been adapted to facilitate knowledge transfer between Inuvialuit and Gwich’in experts and youth, which will in turn contribute to local capacity to monitor and understand local environmental change. Knowledge transfer to youth has been identified as a key goal of the project steering committee and local HTCs / RRCs.

Communications Plan
The research team will meet with the project steering committee 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.

Web-Based Map
We use a web-based map 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 ( and

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 10, 2015 to December 31, 2015.