Integrating local knowledge into an at-sea undergraduate research experience to survey seabirds and marine mammals in the changing Arctic

Kevin Montenegro1, Triston Millstone2, Mia Otokiak3, Gibson Kelly Porter3, Holly Morin4, Rick Ludkin5, Brice Loose6, Amy Denton7 and Kevin M Boswell8, (1)Florida International University, Biological Sciences, Miami, United States, (2)California State University Channel Islands, CA, United States, (3)Ikaarvik, NU, Canada, (4)University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett, RI, United States, (5)Environment Canada, ON, Canada, (6)University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States, (7)California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, United States, (8)Florida International University, Biological Sciences, North Miami, FL, United States
The Northwest Passage Project (NPP), funded by the National Science Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation, is a collaborative effort between the University of Rhode Island, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, the film company David Clark Inc., five minority serving institutions, and several other institutional partners. During an innovative, 18-day expedition onboard the Swedish Icebreaker Oden, teams of undergraduate students were trained and educated by social and natural scientists to investigate and communicate how the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is changing. Using oceanographic, atmospheric, and ice sampling methods as well as shipboard census and distribution surveys of Arctic seabirds and marine mammals, students and scientists sought to understand how warming Arctic waters and decreasing sea ice may be impacting the region. Working with a Canadian Wildlife Service certified observer, student members of the birds and marine mammals (BaMM) research team conducted visual surveys of seabirds by scanning a specified area within 300 meters of the vessel and recording species names and other data for seabirds sighted. Opportunistic sightings of marine mammals were also made during these surveys. Over 22 seabird species and 8 species of marine mammals were sighted during the expedition. Two, early career, Inuit scientists were part of the birds and marine mammals research team, providing a unique opportunity for traditional knowledge transfer to expedition participants. Stories shared and familiarity with species seen enhanced data collection efforts and broadened student understanding about issues of local concern. These Indigenous community connections culminated in a suite of programs with the Arctic community of Pond Inlet, which included tours of the town, a barbeque with local community members, and a workshop with the Ikaarvik program, which empowers Arctic youth to be the bridge between research efforts and their communities. This presentation will focus on the BaMM research team’s experiences.