Robert Mulders and Dave Abernathy
Renewable Resources, Northwest Territories
Arviat (Eskimo Point), Northwest Territories
Greetings from the great white North!
Dave Abernathy and I are now in Coral Harbour, which is located in Hudson Bay on Southampton Island. We're here conducting caribou research this week. We'll spend our time travelling around the island by snowmachine by day and spending the night in small canvas wall tents (7' x 9').
Travelling with us are Inuapik Ell and Johanassie Nakoolak, two Coral Harbour hunters and guides and Mathiew Hugo-Brunet, a college student from Quebec. If we can talk Johannassie into building us an igloo some evening, we'll have more comfortable sleeping quarters. Since temperatures at this time of year range from about -25 to -40 degrees F, and fairly good winds, we're dealing with very high wind- chill factors.
The purpose of our work is to examine the health conditions of the caribou here. Using a spotting scope we'll examine caribou and classify them as: calf, yearling female, yearling male, cow, young bull or mature bull. In particular we'll see how many cows still have their calves (born last June). If many calves have survived the winter this tells us the food source is adequate and the population is growing.
While in Coral Harbour I'll also meet to discuss polar bear management issues. My past research has included satellite collaring and tagging polar bears in Hudson Bay. I'll send a picture for you!
Both Dave and I live in Arviat (Eskimo Point), NWT. Much of the Wildlife Management work we do in the Keewatin involves determining the location and numbers of the larger mammal species--caribou, polar bear, barren-ground grizzly bear, and muskox.
Since Inuit people in the Keewatin harvest between 8,000 -12,000 caribou annually, this species receives a good portion of our research attention. Once we get an estimate of abundance of a particular species, we may establish a quota to ensure that the human harvest does not exceed the sustainable yield for that population. Quotas are in place for our bear and muskox populations, but are not currently required for our relatively abundant caribou herds.
As well, we occasionally do work on wolves, peregrine falcons, geese, and lemmings. Since there are only two biological staff for the entire Keewatin region (wildlife technician: Dave Abernethy; and regional biologist: myself), we don't have the luxury of conducting detailed ecological studies.
Dave Abernethy was raised in Yellowknife and completed a two year Renewable Resources Technology Program at Fort Smith. Dave started working with our department in August 1994, and is a keen participant in our various field projects. Dave enjoys hunting and camping, and is interested in photography. As technician, Dave typically collects biological samples and harvest data for bears and muskox, ages caribou teeth in our lab, down-loads and maps caribou satellite data, and in general helps to coordinate our various field surveys.
I was also raised in the Northwest Territories (various communities) and have a B.Sc. (Zoology) from the University of Alberta (Edmonton), and an almost complete M.Sc. from Laurentian University (Sudbury). My thesis deals with cranial morphology in wolves and examines the subspecific (subspecies) status currently described for this species in northern Canada. I started working for Renewable Resources in the Keewatin in 1982 as wildlife technician, and assumed the position of regional biologist in 1988. I similarly have an interest in travel, photography, and camping. More exotic interests such as scuba diving have been put on the back burner as I've shifted my focus to more domestic issues: raising a family (2 young daughters) and doing home renovations.
As a biologist, I develop research proposals and actively participate in the field studies. In addition to conducting wildlife research, we make recommendations on proposed land use activities (ie mineral exploration), and deal with the schools, hunters and the public on a broad range of wildlife related issues.
Conducting research in Canada's north is challenging. Severe weather conditions, logistical difficulties, and working within an Inuit culture all combine to offer a fairly unique work experience. The pending (April 1999) split of the Northwest Territories into a western (Denedeh) and eastern (Nunavut) territory also adds to the challenge.
I look forward to answering your questions about caribou and life in the arctic.