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Kivalliq Wildlife Board secures $600,000 research grant

There will be plenty of activity later this summer revolving around ecosystem research thanks to a $600,000 grant for community-based research obtained by the Kivalliq Wildlife Board (KWB).

Therese Sammurtok and Natuk Innukshuk are all smiles after taking down a caribou while participating in the Rankin Inlet Young Hunter’s program.
photo courtesy Rankin Inlet Young Hunter’s program

KWB research co-ordinator Clayton Tartak said the KWB put in an application for funds to conduct base research in the Rankin Inlet area.

Tartak said the research will mostly be used to help build local capacity for monitoring climate, wildlife and people in Rankin Inlet.

He said the research will look at linkages between climate, development, the environment and caribou on one end of the project, and also provide baseline information for the marine ecosystem and how everything in the marine ecosystem interacts.

“We’ll have local researchers going out on the land to collect samples of vegetation later on this summer,” said Tartak.

“We’ll be providing funds to the Young Hunter’s programs here in Rankin Inlet and in Arviat to collect samples during their program activities, so they’ll be learning from scientific methodology as well as learning how to hunt from the Elders.

“We’ll also be interviewing Elders later on this summer, which will help inform the study’s design.”

Tartak said research partners in the study are Laval University, the University of Quebec’s Rimouski campus and the University of Moncton.

He said the university labs will analyze the samples and, depending on how the pandemic goes, the KWB will be sending youths to conduct some lab work with the professors there, as well.

“For the marine ecosystem, they’ll be looking at stomach contents from everything from shrimp to seals and beluga – and potentially polar bears – to see, basically, a pattern for who eats who in the marine ecosystem.

“This was all originally slated to be collaborative with the high school here in Rankin, but the pandemic forced us to make some modifications to the program.

“So we have two research assistants, who are being hired locally, and we’ll be funding portions of the Young Hunter’s program and creating jobs for guides with that.”

Tartak said this is a three-year program starting this summer and running until 2022.-2023

He said the KWB is hoping it becomes the norm for the Hunters and Trappers Organizations and the regional wildlife boards to do projects like this.

“That would give us the opportunity to watch for changes in diet and trace it back to climate or development problems that may come up.

“The funders for this project are the Government of Canada through the Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring program, and Indigenous Services Canada through the Climate Change and Health Adaptation program.

“It’s really important to have youth involved in research projects. I think it’s important that we start letting our youth know they could become researchers and, if we do get a chance to collaborate with the high school, depending on how the pandemic goes, we’ll have a really wide web that we’ll be reaching out to.

“I’d also like to thank some of our program partners: regional biologist Mitch Campbell in Arviat; the Aqqiumavvik Society’s Young Hunter’s program in Arviat, who will be key in us being able to do some of the work; the Young Hunter’s program in Rankin Inlet; Kangiqliniq Hunters and Trappers Organization; and ARTIConnexion, who have run similar programs throughout Nunavut and who we’ve partnered with to provide mentorship.”