, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 266–278 | Cite as

Fostering Community-Based Wildlife Health Monitoring and Research in the Canadian North

  • Ryan K. Brook
  • Susan J. Kutz
  • Alasdair M. Veitch
  • Richard A. Popko
  • Brett T. Elkin
  • Glen Guthrie
Original Contribution


Many northern Canadians have continued a subsistence lifestyle of wildlife harvesting and, therefore, value sustainable wildlife populations. At a regional wildlife workshop in the Sahtu Settlement Area, Northwest Territories in 2002, elders and community leaders raised concerns regarding wildlife health, food safety, and the effects of climate change on wildlife. They requested that efforts be put toward training youth in science and increasing involvement of hunters and youth in wildlife research. In response, we initiated a long-term, integrated approach to foster community-based wildlife health monitoring and research. Annual trips were made to all schools in the Sahtu from 2003 to 2009 to provide hands-on learning for 250–460 students on a range of wildlife topics. In addition, interviews were conducted with 31 hunters and elders to document their local ecological knowledge of wildlife health and local hunters were trained as monitors to collect tissue samples and measurements to assess body condition and monitor health of harvested caribou (n = 69) and moose (n = 19). In 2007 the program was extended to include participation in the annual caribou hunt held by one community. Each year since 2005, a graduate student and/or a postdoctoral trainee in the veterinary or biological sciences has participated in the program. The program has evolved during the last 6 years in response to community and school input, results of empirical research, hunter feedback, local knowledge, and logistical constraints. The continuity of the program is attributed to the energetic collaboration among diverse partners and a unified approach that responds to identified needs.

Key words

wildlife health community-based monitoring youth education local ecological knowledge collaboration disease parasites 



We thank the many people in the Sahtu Settlement Region who kindly shared their time and expertise with us, particularly the wildlife health monitors: B. Kenny, C. Yukon, R. Kochon, J. Kochon, W. Jackson, M. Jackson, J. & C. Rabisca, the participants of the Horton Lake harvest in 2007 and 2008, as well as A. M. Jackson, and the teachers and principals in the local schools. Thanks also to the graduate students who have meaningfully participated in the Sahtu tour over the years. Financial and logistical support was provided by the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada PromoScience, Environment and Natural Resources Department (Government of the Northwest Territories), Enbridge Pipelines Ltd, the Northwest Territories Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program, Climate Change Action Fund (Natural Resources Canada), the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, Veterinarians Without Borders, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.


  1. Auld J, Kershaw R (2005) The Sahtu Atlas: Maps and Stories from the Sahtu Settlement Area in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Government of the Northwest Territories, Norman WellsGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkes F (2004) Rethinking community-based conservation. Conservation Biology 18:621-630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brook RK, Kutz SJ, Millins C, Veitch A, Elkin B, Leighton T (2009) Evaluation and delivery of domestic animal health services in remote communities in the Northwest Territories: a case study of status and needs. Canadian Veterinary Journal (Accepted)Google Scholar
  4. Brook RK, McLachlan SM (2005) On using expert-based science to “test” local knowledge. Ecology and Society 10(2):r3. Accessed 13 July 2008
  5. Brook RK, McLachlan SM (2008) Trends and prospects for local knowledge in ecological and conservation research and monitoring. Biodiversity and Conservation 17:3501–3512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bureau of Statistics, Government of the Northwest Territories (2007) Summary of NWT community statistics. Accessed 11 May 2008
  7. Checkland P, Holwell S (1998) Action research: its nature and validity. Systemic Practice and Action Research 11:9-21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooper CB, Dickinson J, Phillips T, Bonney R (2007) Citizen science as a tool for conservation in residential ecosystems. Ecology and Society 12:11. Accessed 4 September 2008
  9. Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) Coordinating Office and the Canadian Nature Federation (2002) Improving Local Decision-Making Through Community Based Monitoring: Toward a Canadian Community Monitoring Network. Ottawa: Environment Canada. Accessed 17 January 2007
  10. Finn J (1994) The promise of participatory research. Journal of Progressive Human Services 5:25–42Google Scholar
  11. Functowicz SO, Ravetz JR (1994) Uncertainty, complexity and post normal science. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 13:1881-1885CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furgal C, Seguin C (2006) Climate change, health, and vulnerability in Canadian northern aboriginal communities. Environmental Health Perspectives 114:1964-1970Google Scholar
  13. Hoberg EP, Polley L, Jenkins EJ, Kutz SJ, Veitch AM, Elkin BT (2008) Integrated approaches and empirical models for investigation of parasitic diseases in northern wildlife. Emerging Infectious Diseases 14:10-17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kendrick A (2003) Caribou co-management in northern Canada: fostering multiple ways of knowing. In: Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change, Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C (editors), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp 241-267Google Scholar
  15. Kofinas G, Osherenko G, Klein D, Forbes B (2000) Research planning in the face of change: the human role in reindeer/caribou systems. Polar Research 19:3-21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kutz SJ (2007) An evaluation of the role of climate change in the emergence of pathogens and diseases in arctic and subarctic caribou populations. Climate Change Action Fund, Project A760Google Scholar
  17. Kutz SJ, Schock D, Brook RK, Hoberg E (2008) Climate change and infectious diseases in wildlife. Wildlife Professional 2:42-46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McBean G, Alekssev GV, Chen D, Forland E, Fyfe J, Groisman PY, et al. (2005) Arctic climate: past and present. In: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp 21–60Google Scholar
  19. Neimanis A (2005) The Sahtu Wildlife Health Monitor Program: Summary and Assessment. Unpublished report, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: University of SaskatchewanGoogle Scholar
  20. Peterson MN, Riley SJ, Busch L, Liu J (2007) Reconciling wildlife management’s conflicted purpose with a land community world view. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2499-2506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Swallow M, Veitch A (2002) Workshop Report: The Renewable Resources Research and Monitoring in the Sahtu Settlement Area (29 & 30 October 2002). Norman Wells, NWT: Unpublished ReportGoogle Scholar
  22. Vistnes I, Nellemann C (2008) The matter of spatial and temporal scales: a review of reindeer and caribou response to human activity. Polar Biology 31:399-407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wallington TJ, Hobbs R, Morre SA (2005) Implications of current ecological thinking for biodiversity conservation: a review of the salient issues. Ecology and Society 10:15. Accessed 23 August 2008
  24. White G (2008) “Not the almighty”: evaluating aboriginal influence in northern land-claim boards. Arctic 61(Suppl 1):71-85Google Scholar
  25. Wonders W (2003) Canada’s Changing North, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University PressGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan K. Brook
    • 1
    • 2
  • Susan J. Kutz
    • 1
  • Alasdair M. Veitch
    • 3
  • Richard A. Popko
    • 3
  • Brett T. Elkin
    • 4
  • Glen Guthrie
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Sahtu RegionGovernment of the Northwest TerritoriesNorman WellsCanada
  4. 4.Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Wildlife & FisheriesGovernment of the Northwest TerritoriesYellowknifeCanada
  5. 5.Sahtu Renewable Resources BoardNorman WellsCanada

Personalised recommendations