In 2013, we were honoured to become a Laureate of the Arctic Inspiration Prize for a program called Ikaarvik: Barriers to Bridges. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre leads Ikaarvik, a program that works with Arctic youth to be the bridge between their communities and science and between generations within their communities. Youth identify important issues facing their communities and then partner with researchers to address them. On December 8, 2016, Ikaarvik was part of a team that won the 2016 Arctic Inspiration Prize, this time for a program that addresses sea ice-related concerns in Arctic communities.

Sea ice is a critical part of life for Inuit living in Canada’s Arctic. It’s the great connector, linking communities that would otherwise be separated by many miles of open water. It’s a provider, giving sustenance to hunters and their families. It’s a social and cultural foundation on which camping and other activities “on the land” take place. But sea ice is getting thinner, less predictable and more dangerous to travel on. A fall through the ice can be a deadly accident and it’s happening more frequently as the quality of the sea ice degrades.

Eric Solomon working with Ikaarvik youth in Gjoa Haven.

Eric Solomon working with Ikaarvik youth in Gjoa Haven.

Inuit in the communities of Nain, Labrador, and Pond Inlet, Nunavut have begun to respond to these changes by mapping, measuring and monitoring local sea ice conditions using a combination of Inuit Knowledge and high technology. The information is used by community members to improve safety during travel on the ice for hunting, camping and visiting other communities. The program is called SmartICE and it is led by Dr. Trevor Bell at Memorial University.

The entire SmartICE team was honoured to receive the 2016 Arctic Inspiration Prize which will allow SmartICE to expand into more communities in Canada’s Arctic through a northern social enterprise. Ikaarvik will work with youth in new SmartICE communities, helping them become the bridge between the research and their communities. Youth will be involved in all stages of the research, from helping to identify sea ice-related needs in the community, to assisting with sea ice monitoring and reporting. Through the new social enterprise, youth will also be trained and employed to produce and maintain the sea ice measuring and monitoring equipment and collect and report the data.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize allowed Ikaarvik to grow into what it is today. Now, as part of the SmartICE team, Ikaarvik will be able to work with youth in more Arctic communities on issues that they themselves have deemed a priority.

Aquablog post by Eric Solomon, Vancouver Aquarium’s director of Arctic programs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.