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Expedition south
Students to visit researchers, aquarium to offer Northern guidance

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 10, 2011

MITTIMATALIK/POND INLET - This spring, students from Nunavut Arctic College's Pond Inlet campus in the environmental technology program will go south not only to learn about how environmental policies are created but also to educate others about the North.

NNSL photo/graphic

The students in the environmental technology program in Pond Inlet will be going to Vancouver, Quebec and Ottawa this spring on a one-of-a-kind field trip. From left in back row are Shelly Elverum, instructor, Daniel Inuarak, Ivan Koonoo, Andrew Arreak, Jeffery Killiktee, Trevor Arreak and Tim Soucie. In front row are Terry Kalluk, Philip Awa, Randy Quaraq, Sam Arreak, Ezra Arreak and Enookie Inuarak. - photo courtesy of Shelly Elverum

"It will benefit both groups, Inuit and southerners," said student Andrew Arreak.

He is one of the students who are scheduled to go to Vancouver, Ottawa and Quebec in early April.

The students along with an elder and staff from the college will visit the government agencies in Ottawa including Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and perhaps Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

They will also travel to Quebec to visit Laval University where many of the researchers who come to Pond in the summer during the field season are based.

"For capacity to be built in the North you need to get research happening in the community and to do that you need to get these guys down to see where the research projects are coming from," said their instructor Shelly Elverum.

She said most of the researchers go to the goose camp and spend most of the time in isolation from the community.

"We sort of feel left out, we would like to get more information and give more feedback," said student Sam Arreak.

Elverum said by going to visit the university it will allow students to see the other side.

"When you think about the history of people coming from the south to the North they have their Gortex, shoulder flashes and sponsors on them," she said adding "we want to flip that around and be taking guys from here and go on an expedition to the south."

Another stop on their cross-Canada tour will be at the Vancouver Aquarium where they will help to review exhibits, programs, workshops to educate aquarium staff and visitors on true Northern living and traditional values when it comes to the environment.

"It is about building a long-term two-way relationship," said Eric Solomon, director of conservation strategy, Vancouver Aquarium.

He said many visitors to the aquarium have a limited amount of knowledge when it comes to the North.

Solomon, who has been working on the Arctic Connections program for the last six to eight months, said staff at the aquarium know anything to do with the environment in the North also involves social, political, cultural and economic issues as well.

"We want to find ways for people in the North to speak directly to our audiences, rather than us stepping in the way and us trying to change the messages based on what we think is important," he said.

On Feb. 4 the students met with museum staff via Skype to talk about what they will be doing.

A survey was done at the aquarium asking visitors what words they associate with the Arctic. One of them was "penguin."

"It's very good for the students to see how southerners are forming opinions about the Arctic, you can't do that by staying in Pond Inlet," said Elverum.

Sam Arreak said he would like to tell southerners and scientists more studies should be done in the winter time or the dark season as the behaviours of animals change and on how the introduction of the red fox is affecting the Arctic fox.

"We live here, we observe it, we record it and we want to try to pass on the knowledge to future generations," he said.

This is the first year the college has had the environmental technology program outside of Iqaluit and the students enrolled are from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. They have just started their fundraising activities and already have financial support from the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, Parks Canada and The Seltzer-Chan Pond Inlet Foundation. The aquarium has already raised a lot of money needed for the program.

Elverum said the students are fantastic and have been keen, motivated and dedicated to the program.

Whether they go on to pursue careers as wildlife officers, hamlet councillors or members of the hunter and trappers' organizations, she said what they learn through this experience will help them become better leaders in their communities.

"It is also about being proud of yourself and your knowledge and being able to contribute," Elverum said.

Student Jeffery Killiktee summed it up quite well.

"It will challenge the way in which we perceive the world."

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