Knowledge Mobilization

Reflections on the 2018 ACUNS Conference in Edmonton

Written by Isaac Bell, Undergraduate Thesis Student

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What’s an Arctic research conference without some snow? The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) Student Conference, held from November 1-3 at the University of Alberta, perfectly coincided with a generous, multi-day serving of snow, setting the tone for three days of engaging discussions on Northern research.

Isaac Presents his Research

Isaac Presents his Research

Personally, I had the exciting opportunity to present my first poster at an academic conference, entitled ‘Indigenous knowledge integration and community-based research practices among Northern researchers’. The poster session was a very enjoyable experience, and my project will definitely benefit from the conversations I had with researchers hailing from a wide variety of disciplines.

Dr. Martin Raillard, the Chief Scientist of Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), delivered the opening day’s keynote lecture. He spoke passionately about Canada’s leadership position in Arctic research, and the capacity for POLAR to guide other nations towards Indigenous-identified research gaps in Arctic contexts. Among other things, he emphasized the importance of relationships; specifically, that meaningful relationships are what matter the most when it comes to research in the North.

On the topic of relationships, ACUNS 2018 was also an opportunity for several members of the Harper Lab, be they based out of Edmonton, Guelph or elsewhere, to reconnect in a fairly informal setting. David Borish, fresh off the plane from the North American Caribou Workshop in Ottawa, gave an incredible presentation on exploring Inuit-caribou relationships through community-led audio-visual methods. Spoiler alert: David won the award of top oral presentation among PhD students! Outside of the conference, there were several fun activities planned for the Harper Lab, including attending an Oilers game (they won 4-0!), splitting forces to compete in an escape room, and going out for a nice meal.

Back at the conference, Mr. Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, delivered a powerful keynote lecture wherein he referenced some personal experiences with research in the Inuvialuit region. He offered a simple but wise recommendation to do your research (about the region and its people) before you head North to do your ‘actual’ research. Aside from the keynote speakers, the program was packed with research presentations covering an immensely broad range of topics, from traditional Inuit sewing and beading practices, to changes in lichen biomass.

Despite the breadth of content covered in the conference’s three days, there were indeed some unifying themes. Notably, an emphasis on active, mutual learning with Northern community members and/or local representatives appeared to be emerging across essentially all domains of Northern research. Even projects that were seemingly unrelated to humans often took place on the territories of Indigenous communities and served to benefit from the Indigenous knowledge of that region, but more importantly, had a duty to ensure constant consent and approval from the local populations. Several presenters also mentioned a shift towards Indigenous-led research and ownership of results as a method of enhancing the local relevance of research practices. The concept of the Arctic being large in geography but small in ‘feel’ was also an underlying thread throughout the conference’s presentations and coffee break discussions. Many individuals have lived or worked in the same communities and thus knew lots of the same people!

Wrapping up the conference, the Guelph-born explorer extraordinaire James Raffan delivered the keynote lecture at Saturday night’s closing gala. He spoke of his latest adventure: Travelling around the Arctic Circle at 66.6 degrees latitude to engage with locals and learn how they’re being affected by climate change. Despite his own decision to leave the world of academia, James offered high praise for the passion and commitment to meaningful research on display at ACUNS 2018.

Overall, this conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from the future generation of Arctic researchers, and allowed many members of the Harper Lab to reconnect at the University of Alberta!

David leads a National Geographic Student Expedition in Alaska

Written by David Borish, PhD Student Over the past two weeks I was incredibly fortunate to co-lead a National Geographic Student Expeditions (NGSE) trip in Alaska. NGSE offers photo and video-oriented programs for High School and Middle School students worldwide. Hired as the video-focused trip leader, my role was to provide guidance and support to six students from various parts of the US and China who were interested in producing some form of video for their final “on assignment” project.

I wore many hats during my time in Alaska. I planned day activities, organized events, facilitated a positive environment for all levels of learning, drove over 1,500kms, cooked, listened when students needed someone to talk to, dealt with both positive and negative group dynamics, and, most importantly, became a friend and mentor to some amazing, smart, and passionate youth.

Simply put, the trip was a blast. We hiked in Denali National Park, went on an Arctic wildlife safari, ice climbed, trekked on the Matanuska Glacier, kayaked in Kachemak Bay, went tide pooling, interacted with a National Geographic wildlife-tracking expert, and visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center, among other things.

Relating to my personal PhD research, I had an opportunity to see and photograph Alaskan caribou in Denali National Park. I also received some insight into the diverse connections between caribou and Alaskan Natives across the state, from Inupiat to Aleut. I hope to learn more about these connections in Alaska as they can inform my research moving forward.

Photo credits: David Borish

Kate Patterson awarded CIHR's Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Kaitlin Patterson for winning one of the CIHR's Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements! With this award, Kate will be hosted and supervised by Dr. Shuaib Lwasa at Makerere University in Uganda, and supported by the Batwa Development Program, the Bwindi Community Hospital, and the Ugandan Ministry of Health to continue her research, working with Indigenous Batwa to characterize maternal health. During her award tenure, she will: 1) continue her investigation to identify maternal health opportunities in Kanungu district, including the mobilization and dissemination of these findings, 2) collaborate with Indigenous partners to co-produce and co-write two journal articles, and 3) formalize an international health research network between Canadian and Ugandan students.  Congratulations Kate!

Participatory Scenario Planning for Climate Change - New Publication!

Congratulations to Melanie Flynn, for her recent publication in Environmental Science & Policy!  Melanie conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify and evaluate how participatory scenario planning has been used in the Arctic.

Citation:

Flynn, M., Ford, J., Pearce, T., and Harper, S.L. (2018). Participatory scenario planning and climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability research in the Arctic. Environmental Science & Policy. 79:45–53.

Abstract:

Participatory scenario planning (PSP) approaches are increasingly being used in research on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (IAV). We identify and evaluate how PSP has been used in IAV studies in the Arctic, reviewing work published in the peer-reviewed and grey literature (n = 43). Studies utilizing PSP commonly follow the stages recognized as ‘best practice’ in the general literature in scenario planning, engaging with multiple ways of knowing including western science and traditional knowledge, and are employed in a diversity of sectors. Community participation, however, varies between studies, and climate projections are only utilized in just over half of the studies reviewed, raising concern that important future drivers of change are not fully captured. The time required to conduct PSP, involving extensive community engagement, was consistently reported as a challenge, and for application in Indigenous communities requires careful consideration of local culture, values, and belief systems on what it means to prepare for future climate impacts.

Congratulations to Manpreet Saini for successfully defending her MSc thesis research!

Written by Dr. Steven Roche Manpreet began her post-secondary education at McMaster University in 2009, where she majored in Biology. She received both the McMaster Entrance Scholarship for academic excellence and made the Dean’s Honour List in her final three years of her undergraduate degree, graduating with Honours in 2013.

Manpreet came to the Department of Population Medicine in Fall 2014 and has been amazing to work with. She added to her academic achievements right away and hasn’t looked back, receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science & Technology and the NCCPH Knowledge Translation Graduate Student Award. She completed her courses with an average of 91%, has participated in 3 national conferences, winning an award for top poster presentation, and traveled from coast to coast for research and conferences.

It has been a pleasure to watch Manpreet grow both personally and professionally.

Research Photos of Manpreet