Clyde hunters to work on climate change study

A new GPS mounted on snowmobiles?


During International Polar Year, researchers with Igliniit Project in Clyde River plan to link the traditional knowledge of Inuit hunters with cutting-edge technology.

Five hunters in Clyde River will pilot the Igliniit system in the first year and eight hunters in the second year.

“We’re trying to bind the two together, the traditional knowledge and scientific ideas, and create an adaptation plan for the rest of Nunavut, Canada and maybe the rest of the world,” said Nick Illauq, an information technology specialist in Clyde River who’s involved with the Igliniit project development.

“Igliniit” refers to trails routinely travelled by members of a community.

The Igliniit Project is one of many research projects that will be conducted in Clyde River over the next few years as part of federal and territorial research work on climate change and adaptation.

The Government of Nunavut, Natural Resources Canada, southern universities and other Nunavut communities will participate in this multi-year project, which has not yet been formally announced.

The project will study how Clyde River, Hall Beach and Gjoa Haven can adapt to climate change.

The Igliniip project will focus on the location, use, condition and changes in the trails around Clyde River. It’s part of a much larger international project, called the Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project, that’s looking at ice in Clyde River, Barrow, Alaska and Qaanaaq, Greenland.

The Hunters and Trappers Association of Clyde River, the Hamlet of Clyde, engineers and engineering students at the University of Calgary, and Shari Gearheard, a Clyde River resident and research associate with the University of Colorado at Boulder, will work together on the Igliniit Project, which received $210,000 from Canada’s IPY program.

For the project, engineers at University of Calgary and Inuit hunters are working together to design a new global positioning system, or GPS, that can be easily and affordably mounted on a snowmobile.

The Igliniit system will be used during the sea ice season this year and next.

“This will help us in many areas, providing safe transportation, finding good hunting areas and giving information for the scientists,” Illauq said.

This system will automatically log the location of a snowmobile every 30 seconds, tracking the traveller’s routes.

“It’s very practical and very easy to use. Once we start using it, we’ll start training the users and how to input information, so they’ll be able to use it,” Illauq said.

The Igliniit system will also log weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, pressure, wind and the observations of hunters on animals, ice features, ice hazards, place names through a customized hand-held device with a screen featuring user-friendly icons.

Digital cameras on board will also provide visual images that hunters want to take at certain places.

The data logged in this system will be downloaded in the community and then be used to create maps. These maps will integrate the routes of individual snowmobiles, along with the observations of the hunters and weather conditions at those places.

When the maps from different snowmobiles are overlaid, and more maps are accumulated over time, the results will offer a valuable picture of Inuit-land-sea ice use.

And this picture will combine both scientific data such as GPS and weather data and traditional knowledge based on hunters’ input and observations.

These maps can then be combined with information from aerial photos, satellite images or other kinds of maps. The project will include interviews with elders and monthly project meetings with hunters.

“At all times, local Inuit will be in control of the data and the maps and how they are used,” Gearheard said.

But the Igliniit system is not intended to replace knowledge about navigation or land skills, said Gearheard: “Igliniit is only a tool, one that can be combined and work with Inuit knowledge.”

She said Igliniit offers a unique way to contribute mapping information on Clyde River sea ice knowledge and use – knowledge and use that includes much of the east coast of Baffin Island.

“The system could help in harvest and polar bear issues in that it is another way to document observations, keep data on those things, and with a spatial component,” she said.

For example, hunters could print their own maps and keep records of their travel and harvests. Hunters could also use the maps to see patterns in hunting success, changes in animal populations, changes in snow conditions, connections between weather conditions and travel conditions, and where hazards are located.

Community leaders could use the maps in matters related to land use planning or land use negotiations.

Schools could also use the maps in combination with trips on the land to study hunting, geography, and weather, Gearheard said.

She said the Igliniit system could even play a role in searches and rescues.

That’s because, combined with radio, the system provides a way for a person on the land to quickly call for help and report their exact location.

In the future, the system could be modified for use on boats and ATVs. If successful in Clyde River, the system may be useful to other communities in Nunavut and around the North and be customized to meet their own needs for observation, monitoring, and safety.

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