PEI

Mi'kmaq communities encouraged to track climate change with new app

A UPEI researcher has developed an app that is being promoted in Mi'kmaq communities as a way to track climate change.

The app is part of a larger project on climate change adaptation

The app is an online version of the climate diary created by the UPEI Climate Change Lab. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A UPEI researcher has developed a climate diary app that is being promoted in Mi'kmaq communities as a way to track climate change. 

It's an online version of the climate diary created several years ago by the UPEI Climate Change Lab.

There are eight categories on the app: agriculture, amphibians and reptiles, birds, fish, insects, mammals, plants and weather. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"They can report what they have seen to help us study climate change," said Xander Wang, an assistant professor in the school of climate change and adaptation.

"We can create a big picture to help us understand how climate change is happening on Prince Edward Island."

There are eight categories on the app: agriculture, amphibians and reptiles, birds, fish, insects, mammals, plants and weather.

Under each category, there is a drop down menu of observations. For example, with agriculture, it could be the first plowing of the season, grain cutting or potato digging. 

The climate diary app also includes some Mi'kmaq words. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Wang says the app is a way to collect data that his team of scientists could never gather on their own.

"We can't go out to collect the data or reportings across the Island, we need people to help us collect data," Wang said.

"In return, we can share the results to all the people on the Island so they can get a good understanding about climate change on Prince Edward Island."

Connect to climate change

The app is part of a larger project on climate change adaptation being managed by Don Jardine of the Climate Lab for the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.

He has already presented the new app to students at schools in Lennox Island and Mount Stewart.

"The teacher and the students were all very excited," Jardine said.

"They couldn't wait to try it out and look at the pictures and see whether they've seen the birds or plants."

Wang says there is also an animation function to see these reportings by month. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Jardine says the app is a way to connect people in Mi'kmaq communities to the issue of climate change.

"We're trying to show them how the changing climate is maybe impacting some of the species that we see," Jardine said.

"Some of the birds, their arrival patterns in the spring may be changing, their departures in the fall may be changing. Or maybe there are some birds that just don't come here any more."

Participants can even upload photos of what they are observing. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Jardine says the hope is that Mi'kmaq people of all ages will use the app, not just students.

"They will be seeing things too, they're observing things as they're out fishing," Jardine said. 

"This will be a way to record everything, it's fairly easy, you have it on your phone."

Xander Wang hopes the app will be widely used once it is introduced to Mi'kmaq communities across P.E.I. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Cultural importance 

Climate change, Jardine says, is an issue of great interest to the Mi'kmaq.

"They're very interested in the land,their traditions have been that plants and animals are very important to their culture," Jardine said.

"We're hoping this will catch on with some of our schools here and get kids engaged at an early age, looking at the things around them and recognizing them and taking interest."

The app is being presented at Mi'kmaq community meetings in Charlottetown, Scotchfort and Lennox Island.

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca