Inuit and Cree hunters have traveled across the marine environments in Hudson Bay for generations, gaining in-depth knowledge of sea ice habitats and wildlife ecology. A comprehensive synthesis of Indigenous knowledge collected over the last 30 years has identified key data gaps and priorities for research. Guided by visionary projects like Voices from the Bay, the National Inuit Strategy on Research, and ongoing collaboration and consultation with communities and regional organizations, the Arctic Eider Society is setting precedents for Indigenous self-determination in research and building community capacity to address issues of food security, safety and environmental stewardship.
The integration and synergies of our interdisciplinary programs and organization goals are one of our strongest assets. In addition to the overview found here, many detailed results of programs are shared in near-real time on SIKU.org.
AES’ core projects revolve around the study of sea ice ecosystems. Due to large entrapments and mortality events of eiders in the late 1990’s, the community of Sanikiluaq contacted Environment Canada with their concerns. Fast forward through (ongoing) long-term studies and the release of our film People of a Feather in 2011, AES programs have continues to grow into world class examples of Inuit-led science and self-determination in research and monitoring.
“This is how it all got started, sitting in a box watching ducks”
Capturing underwater footage of eiders as they dove below sea ice was the foundation for innovative research programs and led to the creation of the Arctic Eider Society
This project is a partnership between the Sanikiluaq Hunters and Trappers Association, Municipality of Sanikiluaq and AES working with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to plan and implement a community-driven approach to marine and terrestrial protected areas for Qikiqtait (the Belcher Islands), one of the most unique and ecologically significant archipelagos in the world. Stewardship and guardians programs are being developed by Sanikiluarmiut to take care of this region for future generations.
Working with AES and the University of Manitoba, Inuit and Cree hunters across our Community-Driven Research Network have been deploying oceanographic equipment and taking ice core and water samples to assess the cumulative impacts of environmental change on sea ice ecosystems in south-east Hudson Bay. The focus of this project is on changing freshwater inputs and impacts of hydroelectric regulation and climate change on the marine ecosystem.
Community priorities led to establishing oceanographic programs in south-east Hudson Bay and this study uses participatory mapping and interviews to catalog Inuit knowledge indicators of changes in salinity and sea ice conditions. The information collected serves as a 50+ year baseline to contemporary community-driven programs in Sanikiluaq, Inukjuak, Umiujaq and Kuujjuaraapik. These communities initiated this study with AES in partnership with Dr. Gita Ljubicic and Ph.D. student Megan Sheramata.
Food security is a top community priority. This study was established across our Community-Driven Research Network in partnership with Environment Canada and the Northern Contaminants Program to look at all levels of the marine food web including plankton, invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals to assess and monitor emerging contaminants and mercury. New programs in Sanikiluaq are currently looking at how Inuit knowledge and observations can be better incorporated into contaminants research programs. SIKU is used to document key Inuit knowledge indicators that can help interpret lab results as well.
Tools & Techniques
We take the best of new and proven technology, Inuit knowledge, ingenuity and high-tech inspiration to deliver cutting-edge programs and outcomes that support community priorities as well as education, training and stewardship.
Inuit knowledge of sea ice ecosystems and wildlife is the cornerstone of AES programs. Hunters and elders share their knowledge to guide program development and implementation, documenting changes to wildlife, weather and sea ice using Inuktut classifications systems.
The SIKU mobile app and online platform was developed by and for Inuit across the Canadian Arctic. SIKU is mobilizing a wide variety of Indigenous knowledge and observations for the self-determination of communities and Indigenous organizations in research, education and environmental stewardship.
Environmental change happens at many rates and time scales and time lapse imaging provides a compelling way to document and visualize these changes, including the dynamics of sea ice ecosystems, wildlife distribution, behaviour and abundance. AES has captured hundreds of time lapse sequences over the years, many of which are being cataloged on SIKU where Inuit and researchers can analyse and interpret their content as well as share them for training and education.
Tracking the distribution, abundance and health of wildlife species is critical to management and food security for thriving Inuit communities. Key indicator species like beluga, seals and eiders can provide insights into the larger ecosystem acting as “canaries in the coal mine” for environmental change and ecosystem health.
Our programs combine systematically tracking Inuit knowledge indicators of oceanographic conditions with training and deployment of scientific equipment including profilers, moorings and monitoring stations. These deployments measure conditions including salinity, temperature, currents, ice thickness, productivity/chlorophyll and many other variables key to understanding environmental change.