A research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada speaks about the importance of community based monitoring and involvement, as well as her work with beluga whales to determine ecosystem health in Northern communities.
Transcript: Lisa Loseto
My name is Lisa Loseto. I work with Fisheries and Oceans. I’m the section lead. And my research focuses on looking at beluga health in the Western Arctic.
The Northern Contaminants Program is important to myself and my research because it enables me to answer questions that are of real matter and real concern to the people in the north, but more importantly it builds that and expects that bridge to be made with the people of the north and work closely with the communities in understanding contaminants and understanding ecosystem health in the bigger picture.
It’s not that I love the whales so much as I love what it stands for. And it’s such an integral part of the community and the culture and a way of being, and to me reflects ecosystem health. So a healthy whale is a healthy ecosystem. So it’s an ideal species to study. It’s connected to the community and culture, and it tells us so much.
I started doing research in the Arctic during my graduate degree, and I was looking at contaminants. And it was looking at contaminants in soil and water, and I was working with a lot of community members and they had questions about the food they were eating. To me the community is my research team, my partners, my collaborators. We talk about concerns that they have, things that I’m seeing. We try to piece the pictures together.
All of the samples that we’re collecting are collected through harvest programs. So the communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region hunt beluga whales, and that’s where our sample collection starts and that’s where we’re able to go take samples, analyse them for mercury as well as other health indicators and get a sense of what’s going on. So really there is no program without the communities, their knowledge, their support, and their samples.
The future of community-based monitoring is having communities lead with their own ideas and their concerns in partnership with research scientists and have them do research out there in the communities, also integrate with the youth and the elders and be able to bring that back to the scientists and give us leadership and design and give us that leadership to lead as a team on community-based monitoring.
Really in reality the Arctic is huge and it’s vast. And scientists – one person on my own – can’t cover that type of territory and can’t have that knowledge that they have attributed or gathered for the last hundreds of years. So it makes sense that they become the leaders in running these programs.
Lisa Loseto is a research scientist with the Arctic Aquatic Research Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Lisa has been involved with the NCP since the early 2000s when she did her doctoral research on beluga whales from the Mackenzie Delta. Lisa now leads research and monitoring on contaminants in beluga in cooperation with communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
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