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Potential Impacts of Sea ice and Ship Traffic Changes on Caribou Migratory Routes Surrounding Qikiqtaq, Nunavut - Emmelie Paquette, Gita Ljubicic, Simon Okpakok, Cheryl Johnson, Melissa Weber & Jackie Dawson

Part of:
9:00 AM, Friday 4 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Caribou (​Rangifer tarandus, tuktuit ​in Inuktitut) use sea ice for seasonal migrations among islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and between the islands and the mainland. Sea ice is a critical part of caribou habitat and supports their ecological persistence. Climate change models predict the lengthening of summer open water season, which is expected to increase the length of Arctic shipping season along with the frequency and diversity of ship traffic. Such changes could have negative impacts on caribou health and movement, as well as curtail hunting success and travel safety for nearby communities. This research is a part of an ongoing collaboration with the Inuit community of Gjoa Haven (Uqsuqtuuq), on King William Island (KWI; Qikiqtaq). We explore community concerns surrounding changes in sea ice conditions and ship traffic, in relation to caribou crossings to/from KWI previously mapped by Uqsuqtuurmiut (people of Uqsuqtuuq) Elders and hunters in Gjoa Haven.

Using Canadian Ice Service regional ice charts we characterize changes in break-up/freeze-up timing, and length of summer open water season between 1983-2017 for key caribou crossings. Using NORDREG datasets that record ship traffic timing and movement routes, as well as ship type, we also characterize changes in the magnitude and timing of ship traffic around KWI between 1990-2017. Preliminary results were discussed in workshops in Gjoa Haven in the fall of 2018, and community feedback helps refine and orient our sea ice and ship traffic analysis to the local conditions. The knowledge shared with us in workshops was fundamental to our work’s understanding of the local context, and our application of lessons learned into our interdisciplinary analysis. The sea ice and ship traffic conditions required for local travel safety, and caribou movement were described in workshops. These conditions inform the parameters and variables of interest included in our analysis by defining what qualifies as sea ice break-up and freeze-up in a way that is more relevant to the local community and caribou’s use of the environment. Our work emphasizes the importance of multidisciplinary and collaborative research guided by Inuit knowledge. In this presentation, I will discuss lessons learned from the workshops, and discuss ways that Uqsuqtuurmiut knowledge has guided our research

McMaster University
Local Research Coordinator, Gjoa Haven, NU
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