Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Nunavik Inuit Knowledge of Beluga
Socio-ecological systems are inherently complex and marine mammals are fundamentally challenging to study. In the Arctic, marine mammals occupy a central ecological role, as nutrient cyclers and as a source of food and culture for Indigenous peoples. Inuit have developed a rich knowledge system, which has not been fully actualized in application in most Arctic research. Considering the need for the best available information in marine mammal ecology, the research question guiding this dissertation was: How can multiple methods and approaches be used to more effectively gather, understand, and represent Inuit Knowledge for an improved understanding of marine mammal ecology? The dissertation investigates this question using a case study of beluga in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec) drawing on the expertise of hunters and Elders to better understand complex questions in marine mammal ecology. The thesis uses a transdisciplinary approach to address the dissertation objective and is comprised of a general introduction, followed by four chapters formatted as journal manuscripts, and closes with an integrated discussion and conclusion. The first manuscript examines the contributions of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of beluga to marine mammal literature. The second manuscript uses a sub-set of data gathered through participant mapping to apply a mapping method to explore how the spatial aspects of TEK could be better documented, analyzed, and represented. The third and fourth papers are based on the knowledge shared by hunters and Elders. The third explores the questions ‘why do beluga migrate?’ and ‘what factors influence beluga movement?’. The fourth investigates aspects of beluga foraging ecology. This dissertation makes methodological contributions through the application of kernel density estimators to participant maps as a method for transforming multiple mapped narratives into a quantitative database. The understandings shared by hunters and Elders make significant ecological contributions, particularly to foraging (e.g. diet composition and seasonal energy intake), and movement ecology (e.g. potential drivers of migration). Broadly these findings contribute to our collective understanding of beluga ecology and have implications for wildlife management. Author Keywords: Arctic, Beluga biology, foraging ecology, Inuit Knowledge, migration, transdisciplinary

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