NWT scientist optimistic about devolution

NWT scientist optimistic about devolution
The team behind Ikaarvik: From Barriers to Bridges received one third of a $1 million prize from ArcticNet as one of three laureates of the second annual Arctic Inspiration Prize.Photo: ArcticNet.

One of the NWT’s top Arctic scientists says devolution could be a positive factor for scientific research in the territory.

Duane Smith, co-chair of the ArcticNet and president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council based in Inuvik, said devolution in 2014 will not affect scientists’ mandates and has the potential to boost research efforts.

“Hopefully devolution will enhance and compliment some of the research within the Northwest Territories since (the GNWT) will be taking over the management of most of the land (and) are going to have to start gathering that data as well,” he said.

Smith was in Halifax last week along with hundreds of Northern representatives, industry leaders, policy makers and students for Canada’s largest annual Arctic research gathering.

Put on by ArcticNet, an arms-length network of Canadian researchers aimed at studying the impacts of climate change in the coastal Arctic, the ninth annual conference gave Arctic scientists a venue to presents their latest research.

Topics this year included Arctic sovereignty and security, climate variability, Inuit education and community health.

“Everybody’s here to share their information and to learn from each other, and it develops networking with different researchers and creates a broader understanding as to how everything is interrelated,” Smith said.

Throughout the week-long conference, the Arctic was touted as the “new frontier,” Smith noted. In the past, research in the Arctic was not done on a consistent basis, but climate change is drawing scientific attention North.

“Because the ice is receding and making the spring, summer, fall seasons a little bit longer, it’s allowing other initiatives with longer time periods to go into the Arctic and conduct their activities, if it’s research or exploration for economic purposes,” he said.

Climate change has been a growing interest for the GNWT, according to those in the territorial government.

Brian Sieben, climate change specialist with ENR, told The Journal in an interview last month that climate change adaptation strategies are now being considered and implemented across several departments.

Arctic research has broad implications for both industry and conservation efforts, Smith noted, regardless of the end goal.

“The more information that’s gathered through research…provides a better understanding for everybody to make more informed decisions on whatever their objective is,” he said.

For the second year in a row, ArcticNet presented an Arctic Inspiration Prize to organizations from Northern Canada who are making strides in their respective fields to the benefit of the Canadian Arctic.

This year, three winners shared the $1 million prize: Ikaarvik: From Barriers to Bridges, a community-based science project in Cambridge Bay, Pond Inlet, Kugluktuk, Pangnirtung and Gjoa Haven; the National Strategy on Inuit Education – National Parent Mobilization Initiative, an initiative focused on encouraging northern students to attend school; and SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: Healthy homes in thriving Nunatsiavut communities, a plan to create culturally suitable and environmentally adapted housing in Nunatsiavut.

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