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Theses - Laidler (PhD dissertation)


Laidler, G. J. [PhD dissertation, 2007] Ice, Through Inuit     Eyes: Characterizing the importance of sea ice         processes, use, and change around three Nunavut communities (University of Toronto)


Sea ice is an integral component of life in Inuit communities.  It has complex influences on economic, social, cultural, and subsistence activities.  Also, due to its influential role in regulating energy exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere, sea ice is often used as an indicator of climate change in arctic regions.  Significant scientific research effort has been focused on determining the potential impacts of global climate change on arctic ice seasonal patterns.  Recently, interest in the impacts of climate change on arctic communities, and resulting societal adaptations, has emerged.  Sea ice is thus an essential component to include in vulnerability assessments designed to evaluate community-specific implications of climate change.  However, in order to undertake such an assessment, we must first understand Inuit characterizations of sea ice and the attributes of ice that most affect their livelihoods and lifestyles.  

Inuit have developed an intimate relationship with the sea ice and marine ecosystem through generations of observation and experience.  While they have long been able to harvest wildlife and forecast changes linked to ice conditions, little of this detailed knowledge has been documented to appropriately represent this expertise.  Therefore, working with Inuit sea ice experts in Cape Dorset, Igloolik, and Pangnirtung, Nunavut, this thesis characterizes the local importance of sea ice processes, use, and change.  Employing a collaborative research approach, a combination of participatory methods (i.e. semi-directed interviews, experiential sea ice trips, focus groups) were undertaken in four field seasons between 2003 and 2005.  Results from each community include descriptions of: i) freezing and melting processes; ii) the influences of winds and currents on sea ice; iii) sea ice uses for travel, hunting, and wildlife habitat; and, iv) observations of sea ice change.  These results facilitate a comparative regional analysis, with an emphasis on Inuktitut terminology and implications of a changing sea ice environment.  Experiences in a cross-cultural, community-based, collaborative research setting also enable an evaluation of the effectiveness of the research approach.  This thesis lays the foundation for knowledge-sharing between Inuit and scientists.  It is a starting point for attempts to link local and scientific knowledge in a complementary manner.


This research was generously supported with funding from:

  1. ArcticNet (Theme 4.2)

  2. Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship)

  3. Cyrosphere System in Canada

  4. Northern Ecosystem Initiative

  5. Northern Scientific Training Program

  6. Ocean Management Research Network (Integrated Management Node)

  7. Ontario Graduate Scholarship

  8. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship

  9. Society of Women Geographers (Evelyn L. Pruitt National Fellowship for Dissertation Research)

  10. University of Toronto, Department of Geography

I am also grateful for ongoing help and collaboration from:

  1. Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Network

  2. Canadian Ice Service

  3. Cape Dorset, Nunavut

  4. Carleton University (Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology)

  5. Department of Fisheries and Oceans

  6. Government of Nunavut, Department of Environment

  7. Global Environmental Change Group, University of Guelph

  8. Igloolik, Nunavut

  9. Inuit Heritage Trust

  10. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

  11. Nunavut Arctic College

  12. Nunavut Research Institute

  13. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated

  14. Pangnirtung, Nunavut

  15. Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board (Nunavut Wildlife Management Board)

  16. Qikiqtani Inuit Association

  17. Universite Laval (CIERA)

Download Thesis

  1. Abstract and Table of Contents

  2. Chp 1 - Introduction: Learning about ice through Inuit eyes

  3. Chp 2 - Literature Review: Inuit and scientific perspectives on sea ice, a starting point

  4. Chp 3 - Methods: Undertaking cross-cultural,collaborative, community-based research

  5. Chp 4 - Results: The importance of sea ice processes, use, and change around Cape Dorset

  6. Chp 5 - Results: The importance of sea ice processes, use, and change around Igloolik

  7. Chp 6 - Results: The importance of sea ice processes, use, and change around Pangnirtung

  8. Chp 7 - Analysis: Inter-community comparison of sea ice processes, use, and change

  9. Chp 8 - Analysis: Linking Inuit and scientific sea ice expertise

  10. Chp 9 - Conclusions: Moving forward

  11. Bibliography

  12. Appendices

  13. Addendum

My doctoral dissertation was completed and defended in October, 2006, within the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto.  I am very grateful for the support of generous funders and collaborators, as well as my co-supervisors Dr. Vincent Robinson and Dr. Deborah McGregor.