A most Canaidian science article, In the Northwest Territories, an ecologist is replacing lab notes with sketches that blend genetic research with traditional ecological knowledge.

A most wonderful article that opens views onto the Canadian north, where breaking bounties of communication of ideas and data between scientists and “laypersons” of science research.

Link to full article at the Anerican Scientist site. (Free to read)

A Bit of text from the article.

When Jean Polfus submitted her PhD proposal to determine the genetic relationships and population distribution of three subspecies of caribou in the Northwest Territories of Canada, artwork was not part of her plan. Somewhat to her surprise, however, just over a year into the project, she found herself developing visual aids that would bring together caribou genetics, sociology, language preservation efforts, and traditional hunting practices.

Polfus’s work aims at synthesizing traditional ecological knowledge and contemporary scientific methodologies. Her master’s project built on experience with hardwood forest ecology and caribou population management, by blending habitat modeling and ecological knowledge in British Columbia’s Taku River Tlingit First Nation. Her fascination with this mixture of modern science and traditional knowledge then led her to the Northwest Territories. For the past four years, she has been researching caribou genetics in the Sahtú territory of the Dene First Nation. This land is rich with hunting grounds, in a a region where isolated modern villages cling to three dialects of a staggeringly complex language at risk of extinction.

Working with the Dene presents Polfus with a tangle of sociopolitical and environmental tensions as well as with tremendous creative opportunity. She faces challenges that are rooted in cross-cultural social skills, language barriers, and a history of forced assimilation and disenfranchisement that makes itself heard in native voices at every community meeting she convenes and every time she consults with Dene elders.

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