ARCHIVED - Jennifer Provencher

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Jennifer Provencher is a PhD student at Carleton University looking at how eider ducks are impacted by contaminants and parasites.

Transcript: Jennifer Provencher

Jennifer Provencher: I love – I have the best job in the world. My name is Jennifer Provencher and I'm a PhD student at Carleton University looking at how eider ducks are impacted by contaminants and parasites. So one of my favourite parts about working with eiders and working in northern communities is that I'm a scientist who is never really quite happy without doing some education, but I'm also an educator who's not really happy unless I'm doing science. And so working in the north is great for me because I get to do both.

One of the benefits of working with the eider ducks, especially in the northern areas, is that they're a really important part of northern communities. And so the way we study eiders is often by working with community members. So we hire community members to go out hunting for us, and we get to collect birds through the hunt. We also go to the breeding colonies and study them where they're breeding. And the people of the north, especially the Inuit, have a very close connection with the eiders. Some of the communities that we work with are so in tune with the eider that every season they know where the eiders are and how they can use them.

So one of the other programmes that I've really enjoyed over the years – through the support of a few different groups including the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health as well as Environment Canada – is actually a workshop that we do at the Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit each fall. And so we work with hunters to collect birds, and then we can take those birds back into the classroom in Iqaluit and actually teach the environmental technology programme students how we process those birds. And so it's a great opportunity for those students in Iqaluit to learn how we can use birds to study different questions in the north, and it also teaches them the skills to be part, to take an active role in those studies.

And one of the things that we've expanded on recently through the support by Nasivvik is actually partnering with the fur production and design class at the Arctic College. And so we have both the biology students and the design students come in, learn about bird science in the north, learn about what parts we use to study them. And then we actually cut them in a way – we learn from the instructors for the fur design programme how to cut the eider skins so that they can then go on to be used for slippers and baskets and all kinds of other traditional things that they use the eider skins for.

Some of the most interesting research questions that I have been able to do are actually in some ways inspired by those community consultations. They ask us questions that we don't know the answers to, and they push us farther to understanding usually big picture concepts. Often scientists can get very focused in on a very specific hypothesis, a very specific question that is happening that may come up through a variety of way. And often the community consultations allow us and push us to take our questions and put them into a broader context, and put them into a way that makes sense for those northern communities.

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