Using Inuvialuit Observations to Monitor Environmental Conditions in the Mackenzie Delta Region of the Northwest Territories
Principal Investigator: Bennett, Trevor D (1)
Licence Number: 14795
Organization: University of Victoria
Licensed Year(s): 2010
Issued: Aug 13, 2010
Project Team: Trevor D. Bennett (Principal Reseracher, University of Victoria), Dr. Trevor Lantz (Reserach Supervisor, University of Victoria), Dr. Steve Kokelj (CIMP Program Coordinator, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), Claire Marchildon (CIMP Scientist & Researcher, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), Christine Inglangasuk (Community Liaison and Camp Manager, Inuvik HTC ), Michelle Gruban (Resource Person), (Wildlife & Environmental Monitor(s), Inuvik, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk HTCs)

Objective(s): To test a strategy for using Inuvialuit Knowledge to monitor environmental conditions in the Mackenzie Delta Region (MDR) of the Northwest Territories.

Project Description: The primary objective of this research involves testing a strategy for using Inuvialuit Knowledge to monitor environmental conditions in the Mackenzie Delta Region (MDR) of the Northwest Territories. Methods will include participatory photo mapping, community mapping, and photo elicitation interviews to monitor, record, document and communicate Inuvialuit observations of environmental change in the Delta Region. The objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of these methods (participatory photo mapping, community mapping, and photo elicitation interviews) to adequately contextualize Inuvialuit observations of environmental conditions in the MDR.

This research project builds on and complements a larger collaborative research and monitoring effort between Inuvialuit Hunter and Trappers Committees, the Mackenzie Delta Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and the University of Victoria.

This research project will employ a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) strategy for collecting data. The CBPR strategy 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 in turn, building local capacity to understand and monitor environmental change. Importantly, youth will have the opportunity to gain insights and perspectives of local environmental impacts and change, and gain technical skills (digital photography, GPS unit, and mapping skills) that build local capacity to monitor change. These efforts will form one part of the Mackenzie Delta Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program (MDCIMP) that has the overall objective of monitoring the impacts of multiple stressors on the regional environmental conditions.

The participatory photo mapping (PPM) method will be used to combine participatory photography, community mapping, and lived experience interviews to capture both qualitative and quantitative dimensions of the participant’s experience out on the land in the Mackenzie Delta Region (MDR). The PPM method is a 4-step process that has been adapted to fit community-driven research goals of this project. The PPM method will be used to record existing traditional knowledge and local observations of environmental conditions. This technique will link local observations of disturbances and anomalous environmental conditions with geo-referenced photos, which will be entered into a community map.

Prior to spending time out on the land monitoring environmental conditions, participants will take part in a digital tools skills training session that will include a lesson on how to use the digital research tools (compact digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS)). Out on the land, local youth will be paired with Inuvialuit knowledge holders. The pair will document environmental conditions with photographs georeferenced using GPS units. The photos will be used to direct interviews to elicit and record additional information. Each photograph will be tagged with its respective GPS location and additional data obtained through the interviews. In the fall of 2010, this suite of data (geo-referenced photos, audio recordings, and associated text files) will be entered into a community map.

Photo-elicitation interview: Once the participants have returned from their time out on the land in the MDR, participants will be asked to return the digital cameras, and GPS units. In a meeting between the interviewer and the pair of participants, the photos will be shown on a personal portable computer, and the pair will be asked to select 5-10 key images. The selected photos will then direct interviews with the researcher to elicit and record additional information about the content of the photograph. The interviews will be recorded with a audio recording device. The transcribed interviews will become a narrative for the photograph, and will be linked to each photograph.

Community mapping exercise: Each visual recording will be tagged with its respective GPS location and additional data obtained through the interviews. The suite of data (geo-referenced photos, video, audio recordings, and associated text files) will be entered into a community map.

Focus Group: Shortly after the PPM outings, a demonstration of the community map will be presented to a group of PPM participants in Aklavik. Here the researcher will facilitate an informal focus group discussion that will provide the opportunity for participants to share knowledge and perspectives. This focus group discussion will be recorded with an audio recording device.

Semi-directive interview: Following the focus group, key informants will be interviewed to evaluate the effectiveness of the community-map and the PPM method, to communicate Inuvialuit observations and if the traditional ecological knowledge is adequately contextualized. The interviews will be recorded with an audio recording device. Interviewees will be selected by consulting with the HTCs, the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat, and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resources Centre, and the research supervisor. After presenting a standardized demonstration of the community map to key informants, they will be interviewed about their perceptions of the utility of the mapping strategy in the broader discourse of northern ecosystem management.

By facilitating the recording and documenting of Inuvialuit Knowledge and environmental observations and engaging the community in its collection, this research will improve the understanding of the ecological and social consequences of northern environmental change, and identify mechanisms and barriers to effective multidisciplinary research. This will contribute to efforts to formalize a permanent community based monitoring program rooted in traditional knowledge.

Following the field-camp, a community workshop will be held in Aklavik to communicate project findings and solicit feedback. Plain language project deliverables, including a summary poster and a report highlighting achievements and initial findings, will be made available to schools, and interested community members. In collaboration with Inuvialuit student summer interns, the Inuvialuit observations of environmental change (photos, video, and audio recordings) from the summer months of 2010 will be used to create a video presentation that showcases Inuvialuit Knowledge, youth stewardship of that knowledge, and local understanding of environmental change.

This project also aims to help preserve Inuvialuit Knowledge by documenting, recording, mapping and storing the data in a secure way. This project is intended to produce a community map containing data will be useful for community members and scientists for education, environmental assessment, and planning.

All the data gathered including geo-referenced digital photos, video, and audio recordings tagged with text files, will be organized into a community map. This resulting community map will be presented and discussed with each of the communities in the spring of 2011.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 13, 2010 to September 20, 2010.