Exchanging and Sharing Knowledge: Toward an International Network Supporting Community-Based Monitoring and Local/Traditional Knowledge of the Arctic

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1 Exchanging and Sharing Knowledge: Toward an International Network Supporting Community-Based Monitoring and Local/Traditional Knowledge of the Arctic A briefing paper for the State of the Arctic Conference, Miami, March 2010 Led by ELOKA (Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic) in partnership with 17 others* Corresponding Author: Shari Gearheard, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, I believe it is time for the harpoon and the computer to work together - Peter Kattuk, Sanikiluaq, Nunavut 1. Introduction Over the last decade, Arctic residents and Indigenous peoples have been increasingly involved in, and taking control of, research. Through Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK) research and community-based monitoring (CBM) initiatives, Arctic residents have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to understanding recent environmental change. Arctic residents participation in the International Polar Year (IPY) and their critical role in many IPY projects in social and human health fields, marine and terrestrial biology, and environmental monitoring, are commonly viewed as one of the key accomplishments of this last IPY (Figure 1). However, this momentum in Arctic residents participation in, and knowledge contributions to, science research has to be preserved and extended so that it lasts beyond individual projects and beyond the IPY. A key challenge of LTK research and community-based monitoring to date is having an effective and appropriate means of recording, storing, and managing data and information. Another challenge is to find an effective means of making such data available to Arctic residents and researchers, as well as other interested groups such as teachers, students, scientists, and decision makers. Without a network and data management services to support LTK and community-based research, a number of problems have arisen, such as, misplacement or loss of extremely precious data from Elders who have passed away, lack of awareness of previous studies causing repetition of research, research fatigue in communities, and wasted resources, as well as a reluctance or inability to initiate or maintain community-based research without an available data management system. Thus, there is an urgent need for effective and appropriate means of recording, preserving, and sharing the information collected in Arctic communities. 1

2 Figure 1. Teema Qillaq (left), Ken Qillaq (centre), and Lasalie Joanasie install a sea ice monitoring station outside of Clyde River, Nunavut. Community-based monitoring projects continue to grow in the Arctic, and need data management support (photo Shari Gearheard). There are a number of organizations and researchers coming together to address this issue, and a collaborative network is emerging (see growing list of organizations on final page). One of these is ELOKA, the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic. The rest of this paper highlights ELOKA activities and goals as one example of the specific kinds of work underway to support LTK research and CBM in the Arctic. 2. ELOKA: One Example in an Emerging Network of LTK and CBM Support Services The goal of ELOKA is to facilitate the collection, preservation, exchange, and use of local observations and knowledge of the Arctic by providing data management and user support services. ELOKA seeks to serve a wide range of people from local citizens in small Arctic communities, to scientists in universities, to educators in K-12 schools. In particular, ELOKA seeks to connect local and traditional knowledge (LTK) of the Arctic with science, and local experts with scientists, to further our collective understanding of the Arctic. ELOKA was launched during the International Polar Year (IPY) with funding from the Arctic Observing Network (AON) (National Science Foundation, U.S.). It 2

3 received continuation funding ( ), also from the NSF AON program, but long term funding has yet to be obtained. 3. ELOKA Activities 3.1 Developing data management services and tools for LTK and CBM projects At the heart of ELOKA is the development and implementation of the tools and services needed to manage, protect, communicate, and share LTK and CBM information. In order to achieve this, the first phase of the project included work with two case study projects: Sanikiluaq Sea Ice Project (Nunavut, Canada) The community of Sanikiluaq has been active for many years in researching and monitoring the local environment from both Inuit and scientific perspectives. ELOKA partnered with Sanikiluaq to provide data management for a small subset of their work documenting local observations and knowledge of recent sea ice change. ELOKA was able to provide Sanikiluaq with data management services and in turn, we had an opportunity to learn about their needs and wants for data preservation, access, visualization, and communication. The Sanikiluaq data consists of videotaped interviews with Inuit hunters and map overlays that hunters used to draw their observations of sea ice change. These data are typical of many LTK projects that often use video, audio, and mapping techniques. We developed a subsite within the ELOKA website to display the Sanikiluaq data and provide background information on the community and project (Figure 2). The tools developed include a video player and maps created by professional cartographers in collaboration with community members. Together these tools provide a unique and customized means to store and present Sanikiluaq s LTK research. 3

4 Figure 2. Part of the Sanikiluaq Sea Ice Project subsite on ELOKA showing LTK maps and video player in the upper corner featuring an interview with Peter Kattuk, a Sanikiluaq hunter. Narwhal Tusk Research ELOKA has also partnered with Dr. Martin Nweeia from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine who, in collaboration with Inuit hunters and elders, is researching the narwhal for a project called, Narwhal Tusk Research (Figure 3). In particular, Dr. Nweeia and his partners are interested in the function of the narwhal tusk as a sensory organ. Hunters and elders from Baffin Island and Greenland have worked closely with Nweeia, providing details on changes in hunting strategies for narwhal, observations of narwhal behavior including feeding and migration patterns, and task-related behavior. 4

5 Figure 3. Part of the Narwhal Tusk Research subsite on ELOKA describing how the project integrates traditional knowledge and science to conduct research on the narwhal tusk. ELOKA is developing a website for Narwhal Tusk Research that presents over 30 interviews conducted with Inuit along with complete translations (Figure 4). This allows one to view entire, unfiltered interviews in the context in which they were given. Along with the interviews, the subsite provides information on the science and laboratory work completed in the project (e.g. Figure 3) and summary information about narwhals. 5

6 Figure 4. Presented in an on-line video/translation player, Cornelius Nutarak of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, discusses his life-long experiences observing and hunting narwhal. The Sanikiluaq Sea Ice Project and Narwhal Tusk Research are the first two case studies of ELOKA. Work on subsites for other projects is underway as ELOKA moves into serving more LTK and CBM projects. In addition to on-line presentations of unique collections like these, ELOKA is working to establish web and database systems supporting search and access capabilities. These systems will make these unique LTK and CBM data available to a wide array of user types and scientific disciplines. With this system, diverse groups of researchers, educators, and the public will become better aware of the wealth of information and research potential of the important compilations of elder knowledge and communitybased research ELOKA helps to manage. 3.2 Data management outreach and capacity building ELOKA is actively working on outreach activities. These include presentations at conferences and meetings, participation in policy development, and development of resources for local communities and the research community. Additionally, we are working with communities and indigenous institutions to develop and deliver training 6

7 materials that will help to build the data management capacity of northern residents and researchers who are working in or with communities. These materials will be produced in a variety of formats in keeping with the needs of the users. Distance learning methods will be combined with face-to-face training to maximize the opportunities for expanding and maintaining skills and knowledge. 3.3 Supporting Geographic Information in LTK and CBM Maps and mapping are an important part of many LTK and CBM projects. While paper maps and Mylar film overlays are still widely used to document traditional knowledge and local observations, digital methods are increasingly common. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Web-based mapping are becoming important tools for researchers and communities who are recording their observations and knowledge. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also more commonly used and can produce valuable data. More recently, the combination of digital mapping methods with multimedia representation, visualization and community contributed content is supporting a more holistic approach to recoding and preserving indigenous knowledge and presenting the stories and narratives involved in innovative new ways. Significant research is being carried out in this areas by research groups such as the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. To maximize the value of the data produced by these activities, effective data management strategies must be developed. Along with its partners, the ELOKA team is working to develop tools, methods, and associated training that will support the collection, preservation, exchange, and use of geographic information emerging from community-based projects. 4. ELOKA and meeting the challenges of LTK and CBM data management ELOKA is just one example of how CBM and LTK data can be archived, shared, and used by applying new technologies and working in close collaboration with individuals and communities who shared their knowledge. The unique interdisciplinary approach of IPY and the ELOKA experience with initial case studies have highlighted critical needs to ensure data are well preserved and useful to a broad community. Many of these needs reach across all types of data and information, but LTK and CBM present unique challenges as well. The Arctic Council has determined community-based research to be a priority. For this research to be effective, it needs to be supported with robust data management. All data collection efforts, be it a satellite mission or the gathering of oral interviews, require advanced planning to ensure the data collected are well documented, secure, and useful. Professional data management should be an explicit requirement of any data collection effort. With LTK collection efforts, additional training may be necessary to ensure ethical and effective data collection practices that capture the broad context necessary to understand the information. 7

8 Data archiving is a critical need. Agencies must support repositories and resource centres (e.g. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) in Canada, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) in Russia) for LTK and for CBM data where appropriate archives do not exist. These archives need to collaborate with similar organizations in other countries. ELOKA can facilitate this collaboration, but ultimately there needs to be an internationally supported network of organizations caring for collected LTK and CBM data. The Sustained Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) initiative provides a logical focal point for this collaboration. To ensure these archives are effective, agencies should fund basic and applied research on the unique data management requirements of LTK. There is an acute need for more research and publication on best practices on CBM and LTK data organization and presentation that captures necessary context to convey the rich knowledge that exists. Funding agencies also need to consider how open data policies can be best applied to LTK through fair but simple intellectual property agreements. Finally, it is essential to continue and expand community-based research and collaborations. Agencies should support projects and workshops that bring together scientific researchers and community members to identify and explore integrative science questions. ELOKA s work with the community of Sanikiluaq revealed several critical science questions and potential hypotheses about the Hudson Bay water cycle and food web that has led to new communication between local residents and researchers, and new proposed work, and this is just one example of the potential. 5. ELOKA Summary of Services Data preservation and archiving services for LTK and CBM Facilitation of data discovery and data distribution Dynamic data presentation that seeks to maintain relevant context around the information Digital mapping and community-contributed mapping and GIS Assistance in developing data management plans, data collection protocols, documentation, and data organization to a diverse range of communities, projects, individual researchers, and organizations Connections between LTK and CBM information with scientific data, including research and data products that draw on both Match-making between scientists and Arctic communities based on research needs, interests, and questions; facilitation and support of research collaborations 8

9 Facilitating the establishment of an international network of communities and researchers focused on addressing challenges and issues of data management in an LTK and CBM context 6. Conclusion We understand that the development of a circumpolar network and data management services for Arctic LTK and community-based observations will take time, collaboration, and input from many sources. Our hope is that IPY helped get this mission off the ground and build a strong foundation for its development. The momentum generated by ELOKA and other related IPY projects has the potential to fulfill an existing need in Arctic research and to support northern communities in diverse research and heritage efforts. It has the potential to make a strong contribution to many of the IPY legacy initiatives, such as SAON, ISAC (International Study of Arctic Change), as well as facilitate connections between local and international researchers. Partnerships with Arctic residents and research around knowledge and observation data sharing made important progress in the last decade and in the IPY; but it needs long-term vision, strategic planning, and support with building collaborations across the Arctic, especially by organizations like the Arctic Council, major indigenous peoples organizations, and leading science funding agencies (NSF, ESF, SSHRC, etc.) For more information on ELOKA, visit *A growing list of collaborators in an emerging network working toward support services for LTK and CBM research and data management Shari Gearheard, Henry Huntington, Chris McNeave, Mark Parsons, Peter Pulsifer ELOKA (Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic), National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado at Boulder Miriam Fleming, Lucassie Arragutainaq, Peter Kattuk, Johnassie Ippak Sanikiluaq Sea Ice Project and Municipality of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut Martin Nweeia, David Angnatsiak, Jayko Peterloosie Narwhal Tusk Research, Harvard University Igor Krupnik SIKU (Sea Ice Knowledge and Use) project (IPY), Smithsonian Institution Fraser Taylor, Amos Hayes, Claudio Aporta, Gita Laidler Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University 9

10 Eddy Carmack, Dorothee Schreiber Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada Chris Furgal Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments/Trent University Victoria Goffman, Jim Gamble Aleut International Association/Bering Sea Sub-Network (BSSN) Scot Nickels, Carrie Grable Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Inuit Knowledge Centre (IKC) David Hik Sustained Arctic Observing Network (SAON) Eva Kruemmel, James Kuptana Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada/Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) Study Bryan Maracle Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council Chie Sakakibara Earth Institute, Columbia University Scot Tomlinson International Polar Year Federal Program Office, Canada Hajo Eicken, Matthew Druckenmiller SIZONet (Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network), University of Alaska Fairbanks Michael Svoboda Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP)/Northern Conservation Division, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada Patricia Cochran Alaska Native Science Commission Tero Mustonen SnowChange Cooperative 10

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