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Trent University Researchers Host
Nunavut Youth Abroad Program Participant

Nunavut Wildlife Assessment Project to benefit from northern perspective

Thursday, August 5, 2004, Peterborough

The opportunity to experience “life in the south” for the summer drew Denise Malliki, of Repulse Bay, Nunavut, to Trent University to work on a project into which she already had incredible insight. As part of a research project based on Inuit hunters’ perceptions, Ms. Malliki is teaching Trent University and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) researchers how best to communicate and consult with northern community members.

Ms. Malliki, 16, is working with Trent research associate Dr. Gordon Balch and Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Chris Metcalfe as well as Dr. Susan Sang of the WWF on a volunteer work placement as part of the Nunavut Youth Abroad Program (NYAP). The research team is studying selected Arctic wildlife and the potential impact that contaminants and climate change may be imposing on animal health. Based on Inuit hunters’ perceptions, Dr. Balch and Dr. Metcalfe, of Trent’s Environmental Resources Studies department, are working to develop baseline data on animal health. As part of this Nunavut Wildlife Assessment Project, they’re also trying to tell the people of Nunavut about their research and its importance to the future health of wildlife.

But there are communication barriers - among them, the language. For example, there is no direct translation of the word ‘contaminant’ in Inuktitut. Ms. Malliki has been working with the researchers to help them choose the right words and the right way to deliver their messages.

“We have to find the right words so everybody understands,” says Dr. Balch, adding the research depends on this communication. “This (NYAP exchange) is our way of having the two cultures mix a little more…It takes longer than the one week each year that we’re there to develop trust and respect, to understand how the north works and how best to work together.”

During her time at Trent, Ms. Malliki has been working with Dr. Balch on a PowerPoint presentation to be shown at a conference for Nunavut teachers in Iqaluit in February 2005. The presentation and its supporting resources for teachers will be one more method for communicating this information to northerners and their students, who are future leaders. Meanwhile, Ms. Malliki herself will deliver the messages to her community of about 700.

During her stay in Ontario, Ms. Malliki also spent a week with the WWF in Toronto to learn more about various aspects of communication, including the importance of enlisting financial supporters and the communication of results to policy makers.

The basis for the Nunavut Wildlife Assessment Project is that contaminants used in southern Canada are found in Arctic wildlife and together with the stresses associated with climate change, may gradually affect the wildlife’s ability to adapt to a changing environment.

More specifically, professors Balch and Metcalfe are investigating how these chemicals influence the health of marine mammals in the arctic. The baseline data generated from this project will provide a benchmark useful in future studies - 15 to 20 years from now. The data will be used to monitor subtle changes in wildlife health, such as the prevalence of certain pathogens.

“Changes in wildlife health, if occurring, may be gradual and therefore difficult to detect without the involvement of hunters who are in daily contact with wildlife over vast regions of the north,” says Dr. Balch. “To date, only a limited number of investigations have been devoted to studying wildlife health and, of those conducted, most are best suited for identifying only the very obvious changes in health. Hunters have been voicing concerns over the past few years and saying they’re seeing an increase in parasites and other anomalies that they haven’t noticed in the past.”

Ms. Malliki is one of 16 NYAP participants visiting Ontario and British Columbia this summer. The students will regroup in Ottawa August 9, before heading home.

The NYAP was designed to meet the specific needs of Nunavut youth aged 16 to 21. The 10-month program involves academic work, community fund raising, presentation making, workplace training, a volunteer work placement, and opportunities to live in southern Canada and abroad for six to eight weeks.


To arrange an interview with Denise Malliki on August 5 or 6, please contact Dr. Gord Balch, 748-1011, Ext. 7071

For further information on NYAP, please contact Angela Holmes, Program Officer, (613) 232-9989

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Last Updated August 5, 2004