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Reflections on a co-management led research project in Nunatsiavut

In the realm of wildlife conservation and environmental stewardship, collaboration is key. An excellent example of successful collaboration is the co-management led project called Paigitsiaguk (“to take care of it” in Inuktitut) conducted with the Torngat Wildlife Plants and Fisheries Secretariat in partnership with professional Inuit educators.


The project seeks to facilitate connections between youth, their communities, and the land through stewardship education activities designed for grades K-12. This effort takes multiple forms, including:

  • In-classroom learning

  • Short trips to local museums or culturally and economically important sites (such as smoke houses or fish processing facilities)

  • Bringing in Elders and knowledge holders to share their experiences

  • Excursions that allow youth to explore their relationship with the land and sea


Photo collage taken from the graduate project (Figure 6, Page 44)

In the summer of 2023 as a part of my master’s degree in marine management, I had the pleasure of working for the Torngat Secretariat to collaborate on the Paigitsiaguk project. I was invited to coordinate the Putjotik kit (Putjotik means snow crab in Inuktitut) that is based on the locally and economically important commercial snow crab fishery. The kit provides resources and activities for teachers to borrow and use in their classrooms to meet provincial curriculum outcomes through exploring the adjacent Labrador Sea.


As a newcomer and visitor to Labrador and Nunatsiavut, I am grateful to the Paigitsiaguk project team and Secretariat staff for guiding me through coordinating the Putjotik kit.

By contributing to this ongoing project, I was able to fulfill both my personal and professional aspirations of conducting research that meaningfully contributes to local priorities. For instance, as a newcomer and operating within the constraints of a master’s degree timeline, I would not have been able to identify and complete research that aligns with the needs and interests of communities.


However, co-management boards possess the vision and mandates essential for identifying central research areas as well as recognize local communities as stewards of their lands and waters. By aligning with the Torngat Secretariat’s objectives, I was able to conduct research that contributes to multiple Inuit-led co-management priorities such as prioritizing local stewardship, connecting with youth, and enhancing wellbeing. Furthermore, the Secretariat had assembled a team of educators to spearhead the project, secured funding for translation, maintained a network of trans-disciplinary collaborators, and was actively involved in other educational initiatives that provided valuable insights.


Partnerships with researchers can also be advantageous for co-management boards, as these entities sometimes grapple with limited resources and capacities. With a flexible and receptive approach on the researchers’ part, mutually beneficial partnerships can emerge to create impactful research and project outcomes.


Some of the most important things I learned throughout this experience are to listen intently, show your enthusiasm, openness, and gratitude, and take time to make friends along the way. If you’d like to learn more about the process and benefits of co-management research in this case, please feel free to peruse the graduate project that came from this work available here and a podcast discussion is also available on the Co-management Commons Podcast, episode 19!






 


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