USC researcher collaborates with Inuit communities

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USC researcher collaborates with Inuit communities


21 November 2012

The University of the Sunshine Coast has joined four Canadian universities in a three-year northern hemisphere project to research global climate change issues.

The Inuit Traditional Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change (IK-ADAPT) project was launched in April by researchers from Canadian universities McGill, Mount Allison, Guelph and Trent, and the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research.

Former University of Guelph academic Dr Tristan Pearce, who recently joined USC as a Collaborative Research Network Fellow in Sustainability, will lead USC’s involvement.

Dr Pearce said this would include collaboration with a network of international scholars and opportunities for USC students to do fieldwork with him in the Arctic.

“It’s an exciting initiative which will have many elements that can also be applied to the Australian experience,” he said.

USC’s work will be supported by $150,000 of the total $1.2 million grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

IK-ADAPT will combine scientific research across disciplines with Inuit traditional knowledge to help communities adapt to the health effects of climate change.

Researchers will work closely with six communities across Arctic Canada to examine ways to document, conserve and promote Inuit traditional knowledge to help manage expected impacts on physical, mental and social wellbeing.

“Because this project is in partnership with the local indigenous people, and integrates indigenous knowledge with other forms of knowledge, parallels can be drawn with countries like Australia and their relationships with indigenous peoples,” Dr Pearce said.

“Our University students can gain transferable skills in community-based research and working with traditional knowledge.

“In addition, the impacts of climate change in the Arctic region are far-reaching across the planet. The loss of sea ice has implications for Inuit travelling and hunting but changes in ocean salinity, sea levels and extreme weather patterns have implications across the globe.”

Dr Pearce said the USC component of the project would focus on the case study of Ulukhaktok, a small, coastal Inuit settlement in Canada’s Northwest Territories where he has conducted research for the past nine years.

The academic said he was enjoying his new job and lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast, the first time he has visited Australia.

“I wanted to expand my horizons and this is a complete change, from north to south. It’s a privilege to be here.”

— Julie Schomberg

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