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Steve Kokelj is an environmental scientist with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada currently working for the Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program.
Steve Kokelj: My name is Steve Kokelj. I'm an environmental scientist with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. I live in Yellowknife. I've been there for 12 years. I live there with my wife and kids. I currently work for the Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program, so it's fantastic to have a central meeting group or meeting place like that. And I think because some of the partnerships that we've built are actually so diverse, this is actually one opportunity to bring all those people together. So, you know, I'm meeting with folks from the community, from three or four different universities and government departments, and we're meeting here to talk about our project that's taking place 3,000 kilometres away.
Really one of the underlying principles or one of the underlying themes to the programme is to develop these partnerships but to include northerners in the entire process of knowledge generation. And what this really enables is it ensures that we're asking the right questions. It ensures that the partnerships are equitable and strong. And if northerners, including community members, co-management boards, scientists and regulators are involved in the entire knowledge generation process, they're very likely to understand the results because they're a part of generating the knowledge.
In the late 90s there was a large storm surge that occurred in the Mackenzie Delta, and it brought salt water into the Mackenzie Delta and it killed hundreds of km² of vegetation. And this is in an area of ecological significance, development significance, and an area of cultural significance as well to the Inuvialuit. It took scientists – it took our scientific community about a decade to figure this, that this huge landscape change had occurred. And, as I mentioned, the Inuvialuit knew that this happened 10 years earlier. And it really highlighted to us the importance of communicating very closely between the land users and the traditional knowledge holders and the scientific community. And one of the things that the Cumulative Impact Monitoring Programme does is it provides a vehicle and technical support, as well as the resources to facilitate this interaction between communities, co-management boards and scientists. In my view it's really – a key element to understanding northern environmental change is bringing together these multiple sources of knowledge, and that's really going to give us a holistic view.