Researchers in the Sahtu are asking hunters and trappers in the area to bring them in a quarry they're not used to searching for: caribou droppings.
University of Manitoba PhD student Jean Polfus is part of a team of researchers working on a study of caribou populations across the N.W.T.
She says local people out on the land are helpful because they can bring samples of caribou excrement, which the team will then analyze for genetic material.
There isn't a lot of historical information on caribou, Polfus says, so researchers are hoping to tap into local expertise.
"They know so much about the populations and the historic movements and changes in distribution of caribou, for example, because they pay such close attention and because their livelihood depends on knowing how the populations are doing," she said.
It's hoped that an analysis of the scat will show how different groups of caribou across the Sahtu region are related. Polfus also says knowing how the caribou move can help officials make decisions about future resource developments in the area.
"It's a nice way to monitor to see if increases in, for example, the oil developments might change how the caribou can move and how they can spread their genes on the landscape," she said.
Polfus says boreal caribou are different than the better-known, more-studied barren land caribou. One known difference is herd size: boreal caribou gather in smaller groups, usually between 10 and 15 caribou per herd.