BEARWATCH: Monitoring Impacts of Arctic Climate Change using Polar Bears, Genomics and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: climate change, traditional knowledge, polar bear

Principal Investigator: Lougheed, Stephen C. (1)
Licence Number: 16228
Organization: Queen's University
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: Feb 10, 2018
Project Team: Peter van Coeverden de Groot (Co-Project Leader, Queen’s University), Graham Whitelaw (Co-Project Leader, Queen’s University), Markus Dyck (Co-Project Leader, Government of Nunavut), Marsha Branigan (End User and Collaborator, Government of NWT), Douglas Clark (Co-Applicant, University of Saskatchewan), Daniel McCarthy (Co-Applicant, University of Waterloo), TBD (Graduate Students (3 - 5), Queen's University/University of Saskatchewan)

Objective(s): To integrate and map polar bear knowledge systems and translate findings into a community-based monitoring protocol that will track polar bear population responses to environmental change.

Project Description: This research will integrate and map polar bear knowledge systems and translate findings into a community-based monitoring protocol that will track polar bear population responses to environmental change. Research questions include: 1) Are polar bear science data, existing Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), and historical records from the fur trade, explorer’s personal accounts and government wildlife archives/records comparable? 2) What do the three polar bear knowledge sets tell about demographic changes in polar bears over time and space? 3) How can the deliverables add to existing governance through knowledge translation for use in decision-making?; and, 4) Can polar bear community-based monitoring contribute to understanding bear population trends and climate change?

The research team propose to apply multiple research methods (workshops, community mapping, case studies, observation) but leave sufficient scope and direction to participating communities so that they can equally direct the project from its early stages through completion. The research team will build a knowledge management system (Nanuq-KMS) with scientific and TEK information (obtained through extensive database searches) as well as historical records (accessed through archives) regarding polar bears. The various knowledge sources will be evaluated using document analysis, including assessing the information collected to determine who collected it, how it was collected, how it was analyzed, and whether ethical considerations were taken into account. The database will also be linked to a collaborative geomatics map. The information will be shared with and assessed through various methods including community workshops. The research strategy will involve multiple visits to communities that responded affirmatively to the invitation and currently include Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok. Multiple workshops will be conducted in each focal community involving research design consultation, community mapping and consultation to identify sample sites for faecal collection and provide community insights for the broader polar bear community-based monitoring program, results sharing of faecal sampling and data analysis, synthesis and translation of TEK, historical records and genomics science for use in governance and sharing all research findings. The research team will map existing and acquired TEK, science and historical records of polar bears in Canada. Workshops will be designed to enable community members to transfer their knowledge using maps. Data security is a central concern - differential access to data must be enabled through any searchable archive, and community control of their proprietary data is critical. Community mapping will contribute to the identification of the best locations and seasons to find polar bear faeces to guide the sampling efforts for the biological portion of this project (Wildlife Research Permit). The research team will design and evaluate a repeatable, locally executed community-based monitoring program that will initially involve the two communities identified, as well as one community in Nunavut, and expand to encompass 28 communities in Nunavut and NWT. Lessons from the community work will be utilized during four regional workshops that will involve community members from all 28 communities to finalize the sampling strategy and logistics for the monitoring program. Additional issues that will be addressed through the workshops include ensuring data quality control, minimizing data loss, fragmentation and errors, and ensuring proper training.

Promoting the adoption and integration of polar bear knowledge management, assessment, permitting, licensing, and monitoring processes will also be addressed through the focus and regional workshops. The final symposium planned for Year 4 will address translating the vision of new genomics tools and monitoring program to actions, specifically in polar bear management (quotas, environmental assessments, permitting and monitoring through private-sector actors. The final product of the symposium will work toward a suite of policy, program and plan recommendations addressing polar bear planning and management directed to government and community organizations.

The research team will hold workshops to share and discuss results of fecal sampling and data analysis. Results will also be shared through a searchable online database (Nanuq-KMS) with community control. The research team will hold a final symposium to share results and discuss long term monitoring plan. All published journal articles will be made available. The research team are open to suggestions by community regarding other methods of communications.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 7, 2018 to December 31, 2018.