Mobilizing Mountain Metrics that Matter: Inuit-Led Environment and Health Monitoring in the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve

Mobilizing Mountain Metrics that Matter:
Inuit-Led Environment and Health Monitoring
in the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve

Principal Investigator: Inez Shiwak (Torngat Wildlife, Plants, and Fisheries Secretariat)

Opportunity: Locally-responsive and timely environment and health monitoring programs have been identified as a key adaptation strategy in the face of changing environmental and climatic conditions in mountain regions. Inuit in the community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador have relied on the mountain landscapes in and around the newly-emerging Mealy Mountain National Park (MMNP) for generations, hunting, trapping, and harvesting in the region. Labrador is one of the fastest-warming regions in Canada, and climate change and the resulting environmental impacts are impacting both humans and environments. The community of Rigolet has identified the need to create locally-appropriate and Inuit-led environment and health monitoring platforms to support human wellbeing, ecosystem stewardship, and thriving communities.

Objectives: The Mobilizing Mountain Metrics that Matter will expand and enhance community-driven monitoring systems in Rigolet to track, analyze, and respond to climate change impacts on health and wellbeing. Guided by principles for community-led participatory research, there are four key objectives: 1) characterize mountain metrics that matter to Inuit; 2) expand and enhance community-driven climate-health monitoring systems to reach the MMNP; 3) examine climatic determinants of Inuit health and wellbeing in mountain regions; and 4) promote climate-health awareness among communities in mountain regions.

Research Plan: This project builds on over 10 years of climate-health research expertise, led by the Rigolet Inuit Community Government, and leverages a team of Inuit and settler researchers who have been working together for a decade. The research and objectives of the Monitoring Mountain Metrics that Matter are community-identified and meet Inuit priorities in the community. This research is community-led, participatory, and premised on mixed- methods, to better understand the climate-health nexus for the MMNP. This will be done through three key activities: 1) identify monitoring metrics that matter, based on Inuit knowledge, to characterize what specific weather, environment, and health metrics are locally important for Inuit; 2) create a community-managed database to serve as a long-term repository of data that is urgently needed for decision making and inform models and adaptation strategies to improve community resilience, populated with data from the eNuk monitoring app (www.enuk.eco) and proposed network of weather stations; and 3) identify climate-social-health associations using data from the expanded eNuk app (environmental observations, social metrics, and health outcomes); the network of weather stations (meteorological variables); and de-identified medical records (health data).

Key Outcomes & Impact: This research will solidify and mobilize a list of key metrics and indicators that are important to Inuit in Rigolet and surrounding area, and expand an Inuit-led monitoring system using mobile phone apps to include the MMNP. This research also aims to promote adaptive capacity among Inuit by enhancing local capacity to detect and respond to current and future climate change impacts on Inuit health and wellbeing linked to the MMNP. Through this work, the eNuk app may demonstrate the ways in which Inuit-led monitoring systems can be used to develop locally-appropriate programming in Rigolet and the region, and provide management tools and data for decision-makers and communities that are grounded in and guided by Inuit values, knowledge, and science. This type of monitoring program has the potential to strengthen community resilience to environmental change, while directing future adaptation responses in the region, across the Inuit Nunangat, and other mountain communities.

February 2020 Presentation: Mobilizing Mountain Metrics that Matter

Other Team Members:
Ashlee Cunsolo (Labrador Institute), Sherilee Harper (University of Alberta), Daniel Gillis (University of Guelph), Charlie Flowers (‘My Word’ Lab), Jamie Snook (Torngat Wildlife, Plants, and Fisheries Secretariat), Michele Wood (Nunatsiavut Government Department of Health and Social Development)