• The study of human-caribou systems in the face of change: using multiple disciplinary lenses

      Bali, Archana; Kofinas, Gary; White, Robert G.; Russell, Donald E.; McGuire, A. David (2016-05)
      Barren-ground caribou herds are part of social-ecological systems that are of critical importance to northern Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic, contributing to nutritional, cultural, and spiritual well being that are today undergoing significant changes. This dissertation uses multiple disciplinary lenses to understand the dynamics of these systems and to clarify methods for studying them. Chapter 1 focuses on a prediction of summer (June 1- August 31) mosquito activity and potential insect harassment of caribou in response to a changing climate. The Mosquito Activity Index (MAI) was based on daily ambient temperature and wind velocity obtained from the North American Regional Reanalysis dataset (NARR) from 1979 to 2009 for summer ranges of Alaska’s four Arctic herds: Western Arctic Herd (WAH), Teshekpuk Caribou Herd (TCH), Central Arctic Herd (CAH), and Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH). Mean MAI was lowest for TCH, followed by WAH and PCH and highest for CAH. Over 31 years there was an increasing trend in MAI that affected the summer habitat of TCH and PCH, but a decreasing trend for WAH. Intra-annual patterns in MAI among herds differed in peak MAI. Chapter 2 presents a novel method of participatory videography to document the knowledge and experiences of Caribou People. Ninety-nine interviews were videoed in six Arctic communities of North America in the summer of 2008 as part of the International Polar Year. Chapter 3 presents “Voices of Caribou People,” a composite film of those interviewed, portraying the range of topics reported. Chapter 4 presents the results of an open-coding content analysis of a sample of 34 of the Voices Project interviews. Interviews described people’s rich memories of the past, aspects of their traditional knowledge and practices, the changes they have observed, the challenges they face, and what they perceive as their needs to meet present and future challenges. A key finding of the analysis is that while the research community and funding agencies are highly focused on climate change, Caribou People expressed greater concern about their social, economic, and political challenges. Caribou people noted that more studies undertaken in full partnership with caribou user communities along with community authority in decision-making are needed to sustain their human-caribou systems.