UM scientists partner with Indigenous team to salvage valuable research
Because of COVID-19, UM researchers working on projects in the coastal regions around James Bay have been unable to access some equipment and gather data. Fortunately, they were able to coordinate with Indigenous environmental technicians to collect biological samples so that the data record could be preserved.
The Coastal Habitat Comprehensive Research Program began in 2017 and aims to combine traditional knowledge with science, to better understand environmental changes happening in the bay. Cree hunters have for decades been reporting a dramatic decline in eelgrass beds in the area and dwindling numbers of Canada geese that feed on the grasses. The geese are also a staple in the Cree diet.
In a CBC story, Dr. Zou Zou Kuzyk of the UM Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources explained that the Cree team retrieved five moorings and instruments from the bottom of the bay, where the instruments had been collecting temperature, salinity and current speeds near the eelgrass beds since the summer of 2019.
“They have a whole year’s worth of continuous measurements, which are priceless,” said Kuzyk, the lead for integration among the different research teams that are part of the program.
Kuzyk is also involved in the ocean water component of the research. The other components include looking at what the river systems are bringing into the bay, looking at waterfowl and their habitats along the coast, the health of the eelgrass beds, and Cree knowledge as it relates to everything else.
“It’s a really important problem. It really matters in the lives of the Cree in these coastal communities,” said Kuzyk, adding it was the Cree traditional land users that made the project happen.