I have a website for my PhD research set up at http://nricaribou.cc.umanitoba.ca/sahturesearch/ if you want to check it out.

The main goal of my PhD research was to develop a comprehensive understanding of the identities and relationships among caribou populations and Dene people in the Sahtú region of the Northwest Territories in order to inform and prioritize management efforts.

Caribou occupy a central place in the livelihoods and identities of Aboriginal people and display substantial variation across their distribution. Understanding how caribou populations are spatially structured on the landscape is a question of interest to managers, ecologists, and First Nation hunters. The Sahtú Dene and Métis of the Northwest Territories recently passed a resolution mandating that traditional knowledge and Dene law guide caribou research. The main objective of my project was to support the initiatives proposed by communities in the Sahtú Region through the development of a robust research program that incorporated multiple sources of knowledge into a detailed understanding of caribou variation.

The project brought together traditional knowledge and appropriate non-invasive scientific research such as population genetics to organize and understand the biological diversity of caribou and to develop an approach to caribou research that balances and accommodates aboriginal and scientific ways of knowing. A strong partnership with the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board) and the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę (Renewable Resource Councils) in Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulı́t’a, Colville Lake, and Délı̨nę was essential to the project because the research is dependent on the voluntary collection of caribou fecal pellet (scat) samples by local community members. The genetic analysis of the mucosal layer covering fecal pellets helped define spatial genetic patterns and characterized the boundaries of different groups of caribou in the Sahtú.

Including Dene voices in the planning process mobilized local knowledge and allowed the development of questions that are engaging to all invested parties. By respecting the lives and experiences of people that depend on the land we developed robust descriptions of caribou populations that more accurately reflected caribou biodiversity and promoted alternative ways of examining, defining, and relating to caribou populations in Canada.

I was supervised in this work by Dr. Micheline Manseau (Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba and Parks Canada).

See Art and Science page for more ideas about my PhD.

Photo Highlights from my work in the Sahtú

Caribou scat and tracks in the Mackenzie River Valley.

Community members share their knowledge about caribou during a focus group meeting in Tulit’a, April 2013.

Nogéré Dakoı – red fox (Vulpes vulpes) off the winter road between Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, March 9th, 2013.

Our youngest participant in the caribou population genetics study – Veronique Kochon – who brought in 23 caribou scat samples from north of Colville Lake!

Northern lights dance above Tulit’a in February 2013.

Collecting caribou scat off the winter road between Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake.

An amazing woodland caribou cratering (feeding) area in the Husky Energy shale oil exploration block in the Mackenzie River Valley of the Northwest Territories. Woodland caribou “crater” by digging in the snow with their wide hooves to access lichen, their main winter food source. It is amazing how precisely they can locate clumps of lichen under the snow. You often actually see little nose prints along their tracks where the caribou stick their noses into the snow to presumably “sniff” out the lichen.

Nǫ́da – lynx (Lynx canadensis) on the winter road between Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. March 9th, 2013.

Jesse Tigner, ecologist with Explor seismic line company, collects caribou scat samples from near the Husky Energy exploration block in the Mackenzie River Valley.

Gordon Yakeleya and Cameron Bernarde gas up their skidoos on Willow Lake, near Tulit’a.

Marten from Gordon Yakeleya’s trapline.

The first caribou scat I found in the Sahtú – off the winter road between Tulit’a and Norman Wells.

The spectacular view from the camp at K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah (Caribou Flats) on the Begádeé (Keele River) in the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (Mackenzie Mountains) during the Tulı́t’a fall community caribou hunt September 19-28. The area around the K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah has been used for generations by the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę (Mountain Dene People) because of the Ɂehda (salt licks) that draw Ɂepę́ (caribou) and sahzhǫné (mountain sheep) down from the mountains into the valley.

Tulit’a elders Frank Yallee and Jonas Peters cut up a caribou during the fall hunt at K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah (Caribou Flats) on the Begádeé (Keele River) in the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (Mackenzie Mountains).

Helping the hunters by carrying some of the gear (gun, ax) after a successful caribou hunt near K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah (Caribou Flats) on the Begádeé (Keele River).

Learning to make dry meat at camp at at K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah (Caribou Flats) on the Begádeé (Keele River) in the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (Mackenzie Mountains).

Holding a talking circle with youth at the Tulı́t’a fall community caribou hunt at K’ǝ́yenecho Ɂepę́ Ɂedah (Caribou Flats) on the Begádeé (Keele River) in the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (Mackenzie Mountains).