This blog is just chapter 1 in a series I will publish over the coming week(s), and is meant to serve as an introduction to the context & meaning behind this trip.
When you think of heading to the field, especially as a Dall's sheep researcher based in the Arctic, you probably envision long days strapped into hiking boots and heavy packs, with a backdrop of mountains and tundra. Maybe there is even a helicopter flight sprinkled in the mix, flying overtop herds of white sheep, contrasting their coats against the brilliant, colours of the mountains. You can take a look back at last year's fieldwork blogs to check out that kind of content, but this autumn, things looked a little different for my "fieldwork", and they certainly felt a little more special.
As a non-local and non-Gwich'in researcher, I really believe in the importance of connecting with & giving back to community. Not only in exchange for having the opportunity to work with the animals, land, and people of the Gwich'in Settlement Area (GSA), but also just in the spirit of reciprocity, having healthy long-term relationships, transparency, and sharing knowledge.
This is why I applied for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Indigenous Student Ambassador Award. I received a $5000.00 pot of funding from NSERC dedicated to science communication & promotion, while being able to do something fun, interesting, and useful for local communities. After chatting with my study partner and a few local folks, I decided to focus on connecting with youth in the schools all over the GSA, and hosting a community open-house in the community of Aklavik. Aklavik community members have been really involved in the divii project since its genesis in 2018, and the hamlet is physically located closest to the study area, making it a great option for hosting my first community open house.
The planning and hard work put into this trip has been ongoing for about a year, and I feel so grateful to now be sharing more about the successes of the these events, tips for other researchers looking to do more of this type of work, and what I'll do different next time. I'll get into the specifics in later blogs, but I also want to broadly thank everyone who attended, helped with planning, donated materials/time/labour/etc., and supported my efforts in making it all come together. If you search for # TheDiviiProject on Twitter, you can check out some teasers now of the content coming your way very soon.
Thanks for stopping by!