Culturally Driven Freshwater and Fish Monitoring: Opportunities for Social-Ecological Learning in the Northwest Territories’ Dehcho Region

  • Author / Creator
    Stenekes, Sydney
  • There is growing concern about the sustainability of freshwater ecosystems in northern Canada that are under significant stress from climate change, resource development, and hydroelectric development, among others. Community-based monitoring (CBM) based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has the potential to contribute to understanding impacts on the environment and community livelihoods. This thesis shares insights about culturally driven monitoring, through collaborative research with Kátł’odeeche First Nation (KFN) in the Northwest Territories. This research was initiated in 2018 to improve understanding of the changes occurring in the Hay River and Buffalo River sub-basins, which extend primarily across the Alberta and Northwest Territories borders. Drawing on 15 semi-structured interviews conducted with KFN elders, fish harvesters, and youth, this research illustrates the kinds of social–ecological indicators used by KFN to track changes in the health of aquatic systems as well as the fishing livelihoods of local people. Utilizing indicators, fishers observe declines in fish health, water quality, water quantity, and ice thickness in their lifetime. Community members perceive these changes to be a result of the cumulative effects of environmental stressors. The indicators as well as trends and patterns being observed and experienced can contribute to both social-ecological learning in the community as well as the governance of the larger Mackenzie River Basin. In addition, this research generates outcomes about knowledge sharing, social-ecological learning and CBM based on interviews with KFN and six government and academia actors. Overall, findings increase understandings of the content, mechanisms and flows (relationships) by which knowledge is shared in the context of freshwater and fish monitoring within KFN and among various actors, including Indigenous communities, territorial and federal governments. Evidently, CBM provides opportunities for social-ecological learning, which is necessary in improving the management of the Hay River and Buffalo River sub-basins and the larger Mackenzie River Basin, as it contributes to increased understanding of environmental change. This research highlights the importance of relationships among actors in promoting knowledge sharing and uncovers various barriers that may hinder opportunities for social-ecological learning and knowledge sharing through CBM.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.