For almost a year, the COVID-19 pandemic kept most researchers away from the Arctic, a region key to groundbreaking research on climate change and other pressing environmental concerns. Now, a $205,000 federal grant will enable University of Guelph researchers and their partners in Nunavut to begin an Inuit-led project to help strengthen multi-year science programs in the North.
Dr. Nicolas Brunet, the Latornell Professor in Environmental Stewardship in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, Ontario Agricultural College, and Graeme Reed, a U of G rural studies doctoral candidate and Assembly of First Nations policy adviser, will explore how an Inuit-led process reflecting Inuit values and concerns might benefit Northern science. This project builds on their existing research with Inuit partners in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
The team received funding from the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), which supports interdisciplinary projects and encourages inventive approaches to research.
Many large multi-year research programs in the North were cancelled or put on hold during the pandemic.
“As these programs resume, we have a unique opportunity to rethink how Northern research is done,” said Brunet. “It should contribute not just to scientific understanding but to Inuit self-determination and building the capacity of northern communities to govern research.”
“Improving life depends as much on how we conduct research as the topics we study,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “This generous funding provides University of Guelph researchers and their Inuit collaborators an opportunity to show how Indigenous-led environmental research and Indigenous knowledge enrich our understanding of the world in which we live.”
“Climate change impacts are happening faster in the Arctic region than anywhere else on the planet,” said Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield. “Fighting the crisis needs scientific and traditional knowledge working together, which is key in the approach being used by the University of Guelph researchers with support from the Government of Canada.”
Inuit-led climate change research project in Pond Inlet, Nunavut
The year-long project consists of three phases:
- an inventory of environmental research programs in Nunavut;
- an assessment of the pandemic’s impact on these programs;
- and a pilot study of an Inuit-led climate change research project in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, that Brunet and Reed will facilitate.
A small team of Inuit youth researchers and graduate students, all under 30, will lead the project. Brunet, Reed and Pond Inlet collaborators Alexandra Anaviapik and Abraham Kublu will provide mentorship to help the emerging researchers gain new skills and knowledge.
The data the team collects will provide a useful snapshot of climate change research post-pandemic, but Brunet is most excited about what can be learned about ScIQ (pronounced “sigh-cue”), the research process the project team is using.
ScIQ was created by Inuit youth and facilitated by Ikaavik, a group that builds youth research literacy and capacity. The process braids Western science with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, a worldview that guides relations between humans, other living beings and the land.
“The risks of testing such a new approach, a mostly untried approach, are big,” said Brunet, “but the rewards can be tremendous, if just to show that research can be done differently and in ways that value and centre Inuit within knowledge creation and decision making.”
Dr. Nicolas Brunet