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: 16078
Organization: University of Victoria
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Issued: Apr 19, 2017
Project Team: Trevor Lantz (Project Coordinator, UVic), Tracy Proverbs (Student Researcher, UVic), Jeremy Brammer (Student Researcher, McGill), Thomas Campbell (Student Researcher, UVic), Chanda Brietzke (Student Researcher, UVic), Janet Boxwell (Project Liaison, GRRB), Sharon Snowshoe (Project Liaison, GSCI), Tas-tsi Catholique (Project Liaison, GTC), Amy Amos (Project Liaison, GRRM)

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 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 Beaufort Delta Region. 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 2010-2016, the protocol has been implemented by Inuvialuit and Gwich’in monitors in Inuvik, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Fort McPherson.

In 2017, the research team will continue to implement our 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 vegetation change and permafrost thaw 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 local knowledge holders from the same community. 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 by the researchers, with the aim of training local youth to conduct the interviews, record the video, and capture still digital images at each observation site.

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, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories 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 collaboration with community members and community organizations including the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, the Gwich’in Tribal Council – Department of Cultural Heritage, and the Gwich’in Tribal Council. This research pursues community-driven research goals identified by 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.

Whenever possible, the research team will present project findings at research meetings in the Beaufort Delta Region (Inuvik Research Days, Gwich’in Water Summit, Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program Results Meetings etc.). Plain language project deliverables, including short reports and presentation, will be made available to participants and interested community members.

The research team will 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 April 20, 2017 to December 31, 2017.