RESEARCH NOTES

 Dr. Aynslie Ogden, R.P.F., R.P.Bio., P.Ag.
Senior Science Advisor
Executive Council Office, Government of Yukon
211 Hawkins St, Box 2703 (A-16)
Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2C6
Phone: 867-667-5431
Email: aynslie.ogden@gov.yk.ca
 Science Community of Practice

The Government of Yukon has a significant number of employees engaged in science-related activities. Activities include research, data collection, surveillance, monitoring, traditional knowledge studies, community-based monitoring, scientific facility management, science education, and science policy development. While working within many different disciplines, all government science practitioners and professionals have some things in common – they engage in professional development activities, they collect and analyse data, they disseminate their findings in a variety of formats, and they support and inform decision-making both inside and outside of government.

Science practitioners are individuals with a leadership role in facilitating, coordinating, conducting, funding, regulating and promoting science activities or developing science related policies. Science professionals are those with expert and specialized knowledge in a field in which one is practicing the professional application of scientific knowledge.

Communities of practice, such as the Government of Yukon’s Policy Community of Practice, is becoming a common way of developing capacity and enhancing coordination. A community of practice is a group of people who share a craft or a profession. Communities of practice provide opportunities for members to learn from each other and to develop themselves personally and professionally through the sharing of information and experiences. Communities of practice can exist online, within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch room at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere. Communities of practice are not new phenomena. This type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling.

The Yukon government’s Interdepartmental Science Committee recently established a Science Community of Practice (SCOPe) to facilitate dialogue, collaboration and information sharing amongst members of the Yukon science community. Since the ultimate objective is to enhance scientific capacity, literacy and coordination in Yukon, the Science Community of Practice is open to participation from science practitioners and professionals within federal, First Nation and municipal governments, as well as consultants, industry, and academia (including students).

Led by its members, the Science Community of Practice provides an opportunity for members to learn from each other, and to have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. To date, activities have included lunch and learns, field tours, informal discussion groups, workshops, webinars and networking opportunities.

Launched in March 2013, the Science Community of Practice has almost 200 members. Membership includes scientists, science practitioners and professionals in physical, biological, engineering, health and social science disciplines, as well as science educators and students – all of whom live or work in Yukon.

Participation in SCOPe offers a number of benefits to individual practitioners, departments and agencies as a whole, including:

1. Greater access to opportunities for personal and professional development;

2. Increased collaboration across departments, agencies and scientific disciplines;

3. Greater and more efficient use of data;

4. Identification of opportunities for cost-sharing on training and professional development activities;

5. Reduction in duplication of data collection and research activities;

6. Creation of mentorship opportunities for early-career science practitioners;

7. Increased profile of science practitioners;

8. Increased visibility and credibility of science;

9. Increased opportunities for partnership development

For more information about SCOPe, on how to become a member, or to offer to host a SCOPe activity, please:

1. Join our listserve and be notified of upcoming activities, by contacting Yukon’s Science Advisor.

2. Visit our website

3. Follow us on Twitter

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Paleah Black Moher, PhD
Toxicology and Human Health, Artisanal Gold Council
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria
www.artisanalgold.org

The level of mercury in traditional foods in Nunavut has been the topic of much concern and research in recent years but where does the mercury come from? We know that mercury can travel long distances in the atmosphere before falling onto the ground and water, eventually making its way into the food chain. Did you know that the biggest source of mercury is not burning coal or industry but is actually artisanal gold mining? (UNEP, Mercury: Time to Act, 2013) There are about 20 million artisanal gold miners working all over the developing world, and almost all of them use mercury to separate gold from dirt. Many of these miners are poor and have few other employment options to support their families.

Our research brings improved technology and education to these miners, and tests to see if these efforts make a positive change in their lives and environment. We see that by providing and facilitating access to appropriate equipment and knowledge by working with the miners, we can help them to generate more gold, while using no mercury. This has led to improvements in their health and local environment, the overall well-being of their families; and it also reduces how much mercury is released into the global atmosphere and ends up in our food. In fact, the international community has come together to create the Minamata Convention, an international treaty to reduce mercury signed in October 2013 in Japan. Many Indigenous organizations, such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council, were there to shape the terms of this treaty, as they know all too well its importance. We hope that the Minamata Convention will help our efforts, and assist countries with artisanal miners to achieve the difficult but crucial goal of reducing mercury releases. For more information please visit www.artisanalgold.org.

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 M. Yves Gauthier and Dr Monique Bernier
Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
INRS – Centre Eau Terre Environnement
490, de la Couronne, Québec (Québec), Canada, G1K 9A9
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR)
C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières (Québec), Canada, G9A 5H7
Mr Dave McMullen
Kativik School Board
C.P. 150, Kuujjuaq (Quebec), Canada, J0M 1C0
 
 

The Kativik School Board (Nunavik) is collaborating with scientists from Quebec Universities to introduce a new tool for teaching environmental science to high school students. The AVATIVUT Initiative combines the development of hands-on learning activities for the science courses of Nunavik high schools and the establishment of an environmental monitoring database. It proposes innovative Learning and Evaluation Situations (LES) developed around standard scientific protocols, with themes closely related to the Inuit culture and local climate change issues. To date, these themes are: 1) Berry productivity and snow; 2) Ice monitoring; and 3) Permafrost. Through these activities, students collect real environmental data in their communities. To ensure data quality and comparability, standard protocols and scientific concepts are explained in cool video clips produced in French, English and Inuktitut, while permanent experimental sites are selected, characterized and equipped in each community. To enable data archiving and viewing by the students, an Internet portal has been developed and a discussion forum was also set up (http:// www.cen.ulaval.ca/Avativut/).

Through the LES, students have the opportunity to learn about their environment using scientific approaches (observation; interview; description; sampling; measurement; and analysis) as well as traditional ecological knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ)) through discussions and interviews with Elders in the community. The university scientists provide support before, during, and after the execution of the LES. They also validate the data collected and provide feedback to the classes. The LES on “Berry productivity” was [successfully?] implemented in the Nunavik high school science and technology curriculum in 2012. The LES on “Ice monitoring” will be added to the curriculum in 2013, while the permafrost LES is planned for 2014. The Nunavut Department of Education has expressed interest for a potential application in Nunavut. The AVATIVUT program is a candidate for the 2013 Arctic Inspiration Prize, adjudicated by ArcticNet. ◉