Inuit researchers want Arctic scientists from other parts of Canada to connect with Inuit communities and understand how climate change can affect remote communities.

Arctic scholars are gathering this week for the ArcticNet conference in Vancouver. Two people from Nunavut are also attending to talk about the Ikaarvik Project, a program that aims to connect communities in Canada's Far North with scientists who want to do research there.

"What we're trying to do is offer a route into the communities that is really functional and really meaningful, but also beneficial to both sides. So it's not only about making the researcher's job easier, it's about creating capacity within the communities to be partners," said Shelly Elverum, Northern Coordinator for the Ikaarvik Project.

The Ikaarvik project received a $1 million Arctic Inspiration prize at the ArcticNet conference two years ago.

Connecting youth

Mia Otokiak and Shelly Elverum nunavut

Mia Otokiak and Shelly Elverum work with the Ikaarvik Project, an initiative that aims to encourage conversation between Arctic researchers and youth in Canada's Far North. (Charlie Cho / CBC)

Many communities in the Arctic have a much higher percentage of young people than the large cities to the south. Elverum, a fellow at the Royal canadian Geographical Society, says 60 per cent of the population in Nunavut is under the age of 30.

"So it's really necessary to get that generation involved."

Elverum works with Mia Otokiak, the youth coordinator for the Ikaarvik Project, to help youth act like catalysts for their communities. Some people in the community don't understand what scientists do in the north, and others think researchers are not interested in Inuit communities at all. Otokiak says that has to change.

"I think the biggest thing for the communities to see is that the researchers just want to really engage with the communities, but they don't know how to."

Working as partners

Elverum says they are trying to help both scientists and northern communities find a new perspective on working together.

"It's sort of a new way of thinking about things -- how different could science be if it's actually responding to the needs of communities."

She emphasized the importance of the north-south partnership, especially on issue of climate change.

"If the north doesn't have support in the south, nothing's going to change."

For many in Canada's south, the Arctic is an exotic and mysterious place. But when people actually visit to see for themselves, it can be very rewarding, says Elverum.

"One of the greatest joys in life is to watch people's minds get blown."


To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Ikaarvik Project aims to connect Arctic youth with researchers.