A Co-operative Observation Network to Address Community Research Priorities While Studying Marine Biogeochemistry
Many of Canada’s Arctic research stations and research tools were not built with Inuit communities in mind. They were mostly built to answer interesting science questions, or to support southern interests like mines or military bases. The interesting scientific question that our research group has been working on for many years is how greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide, or methane) move between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Arctic. We have also studied how phytoplankton, some of the smallest living things in the ocean, affect greenhouse gases. And we have looked at ocean acidification, the slow change in seawater chemistry caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels. Over the years, we have spoken with many Inuit about our research. While we have found most to understand why building this scientific knowledge is important for the long-term sustainability of the Arctic, they have also made it clear that these are not the most pressing questions for their communities. This project is about finding ways to make research projects work for Inuit, as well as scientists.
To build this kind of co-operative research program, our project draws on recent experiences in the Kitikmeot Region. In Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, we are working with communities to build a network of weather stations that address local needs. We have hired and trained Northern Research Assistants (RAs) to maintain those stations, and to help us make scientific measurements through the most challenging Arctic seasons. Those RAs also work with us on a
community-based research ship that we use to access coastal environments. These activities are allowing us to make interesting measurements year-round, while providing training opportunities and access to useful environmental data.
This ArcticNet project will continue and expand this type of research. We will improve our training program, to teach our RAs not just to be technicians, but to be better researchers. We will also be work with Inuit to build community research projects around M-MAG-N labs – portable, green energy research stations that can be placed anywhere on the
land. Data from those labs will be delivered using culturally appropriate internet tools designed specifically for use in the North. We will bring the northern researchers we train on the Amundsen, where we can work together on our scientific questions. The outcome of this project will be a co-operative effort where scientists and Northerners work together to address immediate community concerns, while also creating the scientific knowledge needed for the future.