Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch program assisting Arctic research

Article / February 16, 2018 / Project number: 18-0063

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Yellowknife, Northwest Territories — Canadian Rangers are assisting the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in gathering data that a DFO report says will offer “unprecedented” views of Arctic waters.

The initiative, dubbed Canadian Ranger Ocean Watch (CROW), is generating data that will inform a broad spectrum of research. Mike Dempsey, a DFO Arctic Oceanographic Technician said members of 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1 CRPG) have been providing invaluable support.

CROW is a way of adding depth to winter observations informing a number of different projects,” said Mr. Dempsey. “Some of this is climate-related, some is related to fishery issues, and some is monitoring for long-term studies before potential development or increases in shipping. We learn a lot from the Rangers on navigating the ice and winter travel. We love working with the Rangers. They’re amazing.”

DFO science advisors visited communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in early 2017: Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, and Paulatuk. They trained local Rangers in the use of various instruments and left them behind so the work, which is ongoing, could continue.

Lieutenant-Colonel Luis Carvallo, 1 CRPG’s commanding officer, noted that Rangers assist with many such projects.

“The Canadian Rangers’ skills on the land are second to none,” he said. “The environment changes quite drastically in the north – you get white out conditions at times. The Rangers know exactly where they’re going and they can get you to the target zone as required. For the scientists, that’s critical. You don’t have a lot of time to waste getting out to the target to do the task.”

The project’s benefits are very much mutual, Mr. Dempsey said, and will be felt as much in northern communities as in research and academic circles.

“We will make the data available so that people are aware of the studies being done in their backyards – what’s being done and what’s being found. We also want to engage the northern population in a dialogue,” he noted. “There’s been a long history of southern researchers going up to the Arctic, mining data, and taking it home. People up north say, ‘What’s that all about?’ There’s also a lot of traditional knowledge which wasn’t being accessed that is very valuable.”

“There’s a lot of information available from the elders who do a lot of navigation by eye and by memory about reading snow and ice,” he added. “We’re always learning by talking to the Rangers about fish and seals and ice and currents and that sort of thing. The interplay between traditional knowledge and government science is a big part of this.”

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