Sudbury

Moose tracking app brings Indigenous knowledge and modern technology together

In an effort to merge traditional Anishinaabe hunting knowledge with modern technology, a Sudbury biologist is working with First Nations to equip them with a new smartphone app to help track Ontario's declining moose population.

App helps hunters and land users count moose, upload pictures and audio

Jesse Popp is a wildlife specialist with the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre and an adjunct professor in Biology at Laurentian University. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

In an effort to merge traditional Anishinaabe hunting knowledge with modern technology, a Sudbury biologist is working with First Nations to equip them with a new smartphone app to help monitor Ontario's declining moose population.

"That will allow land users to go out and record moose sightings and harvest and other additional information — Indigenous knowledge — so that they can record population trends through time," said Jesse Popp, wildlife specialist with the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre and biology professor at Laurentian University.

"So essentially it's a means for intermingling tradition and technology."

People in First Nations who are out on the land to hunt, trap, gather medicinal plants or other purposes can use the app to count the moose they see or harvest. It also enables them to upload pictures, audio, and text related to the moose's condition or other vital information.

"We work with communities to develop autonomous moose monitoring tools so they can see exactly what's going with moose in their traditional territory," said Popp, who's a member of Wiikwemkong Unceded Territory.

Moose in decline

The province's moose population has declined by about 20 per cent over the past decade, according to the Ontario Environmental Commissioner. 

Popp wants to look into factors causing that drop by "integrating Indigenous knowledge from land users and elders who could potentially have some really important insight into things that western science has previously overlooked."

The moose tracking app was developed in collaboration between the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, Trailmark Systems, and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

The app was developed in collaboration with the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, Trailmark Systems, and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (also known as the Ojibways of Pic River First Nation), where community members are currently using the app.

The plan is to expand the app to other Anishinabek Nation communities in Ontario, and modify it to each community's needs. Popp believes the initiative can be a model for future endeavours between First Nations and the science community.

'We have so much to offer'

"Time and time again, Indigenous knowledge has proven very important to modern science, so it's a priority in my research to show other researchers how valuable Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are," she said. 

"Being part of a culture that has this utmost respect for nature made me want to bring it all together."

Popp cites Indigenous knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants influencing pharmacological development as a major example. She hopes a continued acknowledgement of those contributions will inspire more Indigenous people to pursue science as a career.

"I think it's really great to see cultural inclusivity in science. Indigenous knowledge and western science together can really make a substantial contribution to modern science," she said.

"And with more people recognizing this and considering Indigenous knowledge in their research, perhaps we'll begin to see more Indigenous people in the sciences, which is great, because we have so much to offer."

Popp spotted this moose while doing field research last spring. (Jesse Popp)

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