Nunataryuk - Permafrost thaw and the changing Arctic coast, science for socioeconomic adaptation - Social Science Components

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: subsistence, adaptation planning, climate adaptation, permafrost thaw, coastal environment

Principal Investigator: Gartler, Susanna (4)
Licence Number: 16810
Organization: University of Vienna
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021 2020 2019
Issued: Apr 26, 2021
Project Team: Justine Ramage, Leneisja Jungberg, Millie Greenland, Shinan Wang, Susanna Gartler, Ulla Timlin, Arja Rautio, Jessi Pascal

Objective(s): To identify the impact of permafrost thaw on subsistence harvesting and well-being in Arctic coastal communities, and to identify the risks associated to these changes.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4919.

This project is part of a larger study called “Nunataryuk - Permafrost thaw and the changing Arctic coast, science for socioeconomic adaptation”, which is unique as it uses a circumpolar approach, assessing the impact of permafrost thaw in five Arctic communities in Canada, Greenland, Svalbard and Russia.

The main objectives are to identify the impact of permafrost thaw on subsistence harvesting and well-being in Arctic coastal communities; to identify the risks associated to these changes; to assess the adaptation strategies already implemented and co-design new ones; to raise awareness to the challenges that Arctic coastal communities are facing beyond national borders; and to facilitate sharing of adaptation strategies across the Arctic.

The aim is to bridge the social and natural science components to effectively highlight the changes that might result from thawing permafrost at the community level. One of the key concepts is thus to engage with community members and to effectively communicate the results to participating communities.

The research team will identify the perception of change and risk associated with permafrost thaw that Arctic coastal communities are facing and highlight different challenges associated with permafrost thaw and the various adaptation strategies implemented in participating communities. Further, the team aim to understand what kind of ‘environment stories’ or narratives are most effective when it comes to adaptation and equitable mitigation, and how such stories can be purposefully created and perpetuated.

A community-based, participatory approach focusing on local needs and capacity-building forms the backbone of this research project. In terms of methods a mixed-methods approach will be employed including: 1) both qualitative and quantitative interviews with stakeholders, including walking interviews, 2) survey with community members, 3) focus groups, 4) visual methods such as collaborative video-making and photography, 5) media analysis, and 6) participant observation.

The proposed research is based on semi-structured interviews with interest organizations in the NWT, such as local Hunters and Trappers Committees (HTC’s), Parks Canada, the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat, and government officials. These interviews will be either in-person or phone interviews and will take between forty-five minutes and one hour. The team will record the interviews using hand-held recorders. The interviews will allow identifying the existing institutional and policy framework that support adaptation strategies related to climate change and permafrost thaw.

The research team will identify the perception of change by community members using a survey on the social impact of permafrost thaw. The survey was created by the researchers from the team and was discussed and adjusted with our local partners. The survey will be both carried out online and in person and should take around twenty minutes to complete. It focuses on the impact of permafrost thaw on subsistence activities, a challenge many people living in the Arctic are facing today. It will be available online with Survey Monkey and shared via social media. The survey will also be carried out directly with household members. To do so, we will hire a research assistant (paid hourly for a defined number of interviews). This person will be recruited with the help of our local partners. We would like to carry out between fifty and one-hundred-and-fifty interviews.

The team will seek input regarding local research priorities in regard to permafrost thaw and study design. For the survey as well as interviews (and data collection during the following years) participants will be recruited via snow-ball sampling and the help of a research assistant. Participants may be of ages sixteen or older and any gender and will include both indigenous and non-indigenous citizens. Interviews will not take any longer than one and a half hour and will be recorded with a hand-held device.

The results of the study will be made available to all communities we are engaging with in this project. Participating communities will be able to benefit from circumpolar knowledge identifying successful, culturally effective adaptation strategies, which are already in place, or can be developed in the future. The research team will inform all participants via email (or other means, if a person does not have an email address) about the results of our work. Posters illustrating the outcomes of the study and highlighting adaptation strategies will be made available to local institutions as well. There will also be a number of community meetings (at least one per year from 2020 onwards), where ongoing research results will be shared, and validated.

Following data collection in the first year, the team will produce a public report (published online) in lay language, which will be made available to the general public through ourselves and the community partners by email and online through the Nunataryuk Website, Facebook site and blog. The team will also produce a leaflet with the main findings, as well as a poster, illustrating the outcomes of the study and highlighting adaptation strategies to permafrost thaw that communities are facing. These materials will be disseminated amongst community members who participated in the survey via email (or other means). The research team will publish the results in academic journals and at conferences. Links to published articles will be available on the Nunataryuk website, where the team will provide updates about the activities, results and ways to participate.

The research team will contact local media, such as radio stations and local newspapers and journals to disseminate the results to a broader audience. Results will also be included in the ‘Atlas of Permafrost’, which will be created within the Nunataryuk project by the partners GRID-Arendal. This atlas will feature a page focusing on issues concerning the impact of permafrost thaw on subsistence harvesting.

Further, the Video Project “Thawing Ground” will bring together scientists from Nunataryuk and community members to talk about permafrost thaw and adaptation strategies. Together the team will learn about the science behind permafrost thaw, for example specific causes and how to measure it, as well as what to do in order to deal with the changes that come along (equitable mitigation). The outcome will communicate some of the science done within Nunataryuk and promote effective adaptation strategies across the region.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 27, 2021 to December 31, 2021.