Crowd-sourcing arctic sea ice research

Getting data from the people who know the ice

Studying sea ice is key to understanding climate change in the Arctic. Ice growth, melt rates and acidification tell the story of how atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—largely from burning fossil fuels—are affecting our climate.

An innovative initiative called Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) led by the University of Victoria is using a blend of high- and low-tech solutions to collect and analyze sea ice data.

On the high-tech side, there’s a network of internet-connected observation stations that for more than five years has been collecting data and detecting environmental change in the Arctic Ocean at Cambridge Bay.


On the low-tech side are good, old-fashioned interviews with youth, active hunters, Indigenous elders and non-Inuit community members in the communities Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven.

“Research driven by the needs of a community is well-established in areas such as health and social work, but it’s lagging in the sciences,” says Maia Hoeberechts, project lead with ONC.

“We have the intention with all of our projects of doing scientific work in ways that are meaningful to the communities we work with,” says Hoeberechts. “But what really excites me about this one is that it’s the first time we’ve been funded exclusively to work with the communities, with the option to develop a follow-up research proposal with them if there’s interest.”


Programs like Ocean Sense and Youth Science Ambassador engage youth in the collecting and sharing of vital insights into changes in the oceans around their communities. Youth are encouraged to make their own observations, analyze ONC data and talk to Indigenous elders, putting their local observations to use in making global connections.

ONC will receive $247,000 to expand its successful community-engagement program in Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven. The two-year grant, focused on the science of sea ice, was awarded by POLAR and is a continuation of their support of ONC’s leadership of community engagement in the Arctic.

ALSO READ: Flipping the switch on dirty power in B.C.’s coastal communities


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