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  Igliniit Project
Added by Kelly Karpala, last edited by Shari Gearheard on Jun 12, 2009  (view change)

 Project Overview

The Igliniit Project in Clyde River (Kangiqtugaapik), Nunavut, is an International Polar Year project that brings together Inuit knowledge with engineering and cutting edge technology.  "Igliniit" in Inuktitut refers to trails routinely travelled by members of a community.  The location, use, condition, and changes in Igliniit over time and space can help us understand a great deal about the environment and Inuit-environment relationships. 
In the Igliniit Project, geomatics engineers and Inuit hunters have come together to design a new, integrated GPS system that can be easily and affordably mounted snow machines (snow scooters), the regular mode of travel used by Inuit hunters in Canada who log thousands of kilometres per year. The system automatically logs the location of the snow machine every thirty seconds, providing geo-referenced waypoints that can later be mapped to produce the traveller's routes on a map.  In addition to tracking routes, the Igliniit system logs weather conditions (temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.) and the observations of hunters (e.g. animals, sea ice features, hazards, placenames) through a customized computer screen that has a user-friendly icon interface. Digital cameras (photo and video) that the hunters carry with them provide visual images at certain waypoints (e.g. photos of dangerous hazards, video of animals).  All of the data logged in this system is downloaded in the community and used for the creation of maps.  These maps integrate the collected data, showing the routes of individual snow machines, along with the geo-referenced observations of the hunters and weather conditions.  When the maps of different hunters are overlayed, and more maps are accumulated over time, the result is a valuable picture of Inuit-land-sea ice characteristics and use that combines both quantitative data (GPS, meteorological data) and qualitative data (hunters' observations).

At the moment, the Igliniit system is being tested on snow machines, but in 2009 it will be tested for operation on dog teams, and it can be also modified to operate on boats, ATVs, and other vehicles.

No match for traditional navigation or land skills, the Igliniit system is not designed to replace knowledge in any way. Igliniit is a tool, one that can be combined together with Inuit knowledge, as other technologies like snow machines and GPS handhelds already have.  The Igliniit system has been designed in such a way that it is light and easy to carry and easy to operate.  Its purpose is to support hunting and travel activities, not interrupt them.

The Igliniit system has multiple uses and applications for the community.  For example, individual hunters can print off their own maps and keep records of their own travel and harvests.  Collectively, hunters can use the maps to see patterns in hunting success, changes in animal populations, changes in snow conditions, connections between weather conditions and travel conditions, and locations of hazards.  The maps are not only useful for hunters.  Community leaders can use the maps in matters related to land use planning or land use negotiations, to clearly and easily show up-to-the-day use of land and resources that might be affected by the placement of a mine or protected area. Schools can use the maps in combination with trips on the land to study hunting, geography, and weather, for example. The weather information collected by Igliniit is extremely valuable, as it provides more representative data of weather conditions in the local/regional area, potentially leading to better weather forecasts.  Lastly, Igliniit has the potential to serve a role in search and rescue operations. Igliniit maps can be used to keep up-to-date records of sea ice, land, and water hazards logged by hunters, and these maps can be easily shared with other travellers.  Also, the Igliniit team is investigating the possibility of incorporating live tracking/and or Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) into the Igliniit system, so that anyone carrying an Igliniit unit can send out a signal so that they can be found quickly.

The Igliniit system is being developed collaboratively by Inuit hunters in Clyde River (Kangiqtugaapik) Nunavut, geomatics engineers from the University of Calgary (supervised by Dr. Kyle O'Keefe), and Dr. Shari Gearheard, a researcher with the University of Colorado and full time resident of Clyde River.  Mapping for the project is being coordinated by the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Igliniit is a sub-project of a larger International Polar Year project called the "Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project" led by Dr. Claudio Aporta at Carleton University. 

The Igliniit Project runs through 2011.  If developed and tested successfully, the Igliniit system may be a technology that can be used in many communities in the Arctic and beyond for a variety of activities from environmental monitoring, to land use planning, to search and rescue applications.

Igliniit Project Team:

Clyde River Team:

  • Gary Aipellee
  • Apiusie Apak
  • Jayko Enuaraq
  • Shari Gearheard
  • David Iqaqrialu
  • Liemikie Palluq
  • Jacopie Panipak
  • Amosie Sivugat

University of Calgary Team:

  • Kyle O'Keefe
  • Michael Brand
  • Desmond Chiu
  • Brandon Culling
  • Ryan Enns
  • Sheldon Lam
  • Josiah Lau
  • Andrew Levson
  • Tina Mosstajiri
  • Trevor Phillips
  • Edward Wingate

Carleton University Team

  • Peter Pulsifer
  • Christine Homuth
  • Claudio Aporta

Igliniit Project Recent Activities:

September to December 2007 - Clyde River hunters and U. Calgary engineers iterate on project idea, functions, and the Igliniit interface.  Hunters create list of observations they want to document through Igliniit system.

September to December 2007 - U. Calgary engineers select technology options and iterate with hunters on interface design.

January 2008 - Engineers and hunters agree on an interface design.  Engineers are able to incorporate Inuktitut into the software - interface is available in both English and Inuktitut.
February 2008 - Engineers travel to Clyde River and meet with hunters to test Igliniit system.
February through June 2008 - Clyde hunters test Igliniit system.
July through August 2008 - First map iterations from Igliniit data developed.
Next steps:
September through November 2008 - Hunters and mapping team iterate regarding best ways to represent Igliniit data on maps.
December 2008 through June 2009 - Hunters test Igliniit system for second year.  Continue to make improvements to system, add new observations, and iterate on maps.
December 2008 through June 2009 - Develop Igliniit system for use on dog teams.
July 2009 through December 2009 - Develop example maps from Igliniit data that show system capabilities and potential.

For more information, contact:

Shari Gearheard
Research Scientist II
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDIC)
University of Colorado at Boulder, USA
AND Research Associate at the GCRC
P.O. Box 241
Clyde River, Nunavut
X0A 0E0
Phone: (867) 924-6555
Email: shari.gearheard@nsidc.org  

Igliniit in the News

  • A BBC documentary film crew spent a week in Clyde River during early June 2009 to film the Igliniit project for the documentary film Frozen Planet. Frozen Planet, the sequel to Planet Earth, is scheduled for release in 2011. Igliniit will appear in the film as an example of a collaborative project that combines indigenous knowledge and technology to help better understand the changing environment.
  • Sermitsiaq News in Greenland featured an article on Igliniit after learning about it at the 6th International Congress of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) in Nuuk August 22-26th, 2008. The article is in Greenlandic and Danish and can be viewed in part at http://sermitsiaq.gl/udland/article52796.ece or by downloading the PDF from the "attachments" page.



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