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

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, aboriginal community, traditional knowledge, environmental change

Principal Investigator: Lantz, Trevor C. (22)
Licence Number: 15854
Organization: University of Victoria
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Issued: Mar 29, 2016
Project Team: Trevor Lantz (Project Coordinator, University of Victoria), Sharon Snowshoe (Project Liaison, Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute), Amy Amos (Project Liaison, Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board), Gina Vaneltsi (Community Liaison, Tetlit Gwich'in Renewable Resource Council), Paige Bennett (Student Researcher, University of Victoria), Thomas Campbell (Student Researcher, University of Victoria), Jeremy Brammer (Project Researcher, McGill University), Tracy Proverbs (Student Researcher, University of Victoria), Chanda Brietzke (Monitoring Coordinator, University of Victoria), Will Tyson (Project Researcher, University of Victoria), Inuvialuit and Gwich'in experts (Participants, HTCs and RRCs)

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 (IJS), the Gwich'in Tribal Council (Lands and Resources), the Northwest Territories Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP), and Dr. Trevor Lantz (University of Victoria).


This research will employ participatory multimedia mapping (PMM) techniques to integrate digital video and photography with field interviews with local experts. PMM 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. From 2010-2015, the protocol has been implemented by Inuvialuit and Gwich’in monitors and youth in Inuvik, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Fort McPherson.

In 2016 the research team will continue to implement the PMM protocol in the Mackenzie Delta Region and expand the project to Sachs Harbour on Banks Island. The research team will focus on muskrat ecology and trapping in the Mackenzie Delta, and landscape change on Banks Island. In the first step of the PMM 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 or Gwich’in knowledge holders from the same community as them. 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 PMM outings on the land will be facilitated 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. PMM participants will be selected through consultation with the Hunters and Trappers Committee’s, Renewable Resource Committee’s (RRCs), Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI), and the IJS.

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, University of British Columbia, Carleton University, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada 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 HTCs, Gwich’in Renewable Resource Committees, the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, and the GSCI. This research pursues community-driven research goals identified by local HTC/RRC members and community 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.

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.

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.). Community meetings will also be held in the spring of 2016 to share findings to a broad audience. Plain language project deliverables, including a summary poster and presentation, will be made available to schools and interested community members.

The research team 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 (http://inuvialuit.kwusen.com/ and http://gwichin.kwusen.com/).


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 29, 2016 to September 20, 2016.