Community-Based Monitoring and Research

3.1      Purpose

The Community-Based Monitoring and Research subprogram aims to promote the application of community knowledge and perceptions within NCP projects.  This includes community led projects that are linked to projects funded under the Human Health and Environmental Monitoring and Research subprograms as well as standalone community-based projects that combine local knowledge with contaminants science.

Project proposals submitted for consideration under the Community-Based Monitoring and Research subprogram are encouraged to consider focusing on priority species and areas as identified in the Environmental Monitoring and Research Blueprint. Please note that assessing presence and distribution of micro plastics in marine ecosystems has been added to the Environmental Monitoring and Research Blueprint for 2017-2018.

Project proposals submitted for consideration under the Community-Based Monitoring and Research subprogram related to human health are encouraged to focus on dietary choices and/or risk perception of traditional/country foods.

To be eligible for funding under this subprogram, projects must be led or co-led by a community organization or a northern based institution. Eligible northern based institutions include Hunters and Trappers Committees, community research organizations, Arctic College facilities (such as Aurora Research Institute, Nunavut Research Institute, etc.), territorial/northern regional governments and other community-based groups. Researchers based in southern universities or federal departments may only apply for funding under this subprogram if the project is to be co-led by an eligible northern based institution. For further guidance on eligibility, please contact the NCP Secretariat.

Project funding will be provided annually and is conditional on an open annual review of proposals.

The funding envelope for Community-Based Monitoring and Research projects in the 2017-18 fiscal year is $250,000.

3.2 Introduction

In this call for proposals the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) is seeking proposals to conduct Community-Based Monitoring and Research projects on changes in health and the environment. Details related to the type of projects that the NCP will fund are provided in this Blueprint.

Projects currently being carried out under the Environmental Monitoring and Research subprogram are measuring the temporal trends of contaminants in specific fish and wildlife species at a limited number of locations and conducting research to improve our understanding of how contaminants move through the environment.

Projects under the Human Health subprogram focus on research issues and questions to enable Northerners to assess, understand and better manage the health risks in Northern Canada related to the long-range transport of contaminants and their subsequent presence in people and traditional/country foods.

3.3 Community Knowledge and Environmental Trends

It has become increasingly evident that the changing climate is having significant effects on ecosystem structure and function in the Arctic. These ecosystem changes could influence contaminant uptake and accumulation in the food web, which in turn could affect contaminant concentrations in species that the NCP is monitoring such as caribou, ringed seal, beluga and polar bear (complete list of species available in Environmental Monitoring and Research Blueprint). The NCP Environmental Monitoring and Research program measures year-to-year changes in contaminant concentrations in an effort to assess long-term trends, which it is hoped will reflect global efforts to reduce contaminant emissions. In order to make the link between trends and emissions, there is a need to understand the cause of the trends, and this requires knowledge of how the ecosystem has changed over the monitoring period.

In order to survive/thrive in the harsh Arctic conditions, community members have to be keen observers of the environment and biological systems that sustain their communities. These observations have been made for thousands of years and throughout the period of recent dramatic climate-driven changes in the Arctic and since the NCP began its monitoring program.Hunters and community members will continue to make these observations. Therefore, hunters and community members know how ecosystems have changed in the past, the current status of the ecosystems, and are in the best position to assess future trends and ground truth modeling results. With ongoing observations, hunters and community members will also be able to collect the data that supports their local priorities in a way that can help them to quantify or test relevant predictions. This understanding of Arctic ecosystems and how they have changed can make a significant contribution to the understanding of temporal trends in contaminant concentrations Proposed projects should systematically document these local observations or indicators in a way that is understandable for the community and other hunters, and also useful to contaminant research scientists.

Project teams are encouraged to include researchers who have expertise working with communities and using participatory research methods. Project teams will be encouraged to collaborate with past and current NCP scientists whose work pertains to the species and focal ecosystem proposed for study by the project team. This is to ensure that the study will provide information relevant to ongoing contaminant trend monitoring. The goal of the project should be to document and analyse local observations and traditional knowledge on the ecology of key NCP monitoring species and changes over time.  Please contact the NCP Secretariat for contact information and further details on past and current NCP scientists that have worked on species and focal ecosystems in your area of interest.

3.4 Community Studies on Diet Choices and Risk Perception of Traditional/Country Foods

Many Northern communities are facing economic, political, social and environmental changes that influence human health and well-being. As a result, the need for timely, relevant information about food choices and safety has never been greater. In order to fully understand how people perceive the dietary choices available to them, and the extent to which contaminants play a role in their choices, it is important to have up-to-date information from the communities. Additionally, a further understanding of how Northerners perceive the risks of long-range, transboundary contaminants is important, because this can help us to communicate information about contaminants in a way that is more effective and useful for communities. For example, a message about contaminants in certain food sources may not lead to a change in people’s behaviour if contaminants are not perceived to be a risk.

Projects in this category may focus on how risk perceptions and dietary choices have changed over time or may focus only on current perceptions about contaminant risk in relation to food.

The following are projects that could be funded in this category:

  • Community survey of the factors influencing household diet choices and whether knowledge of contaminants plays a role
  • Study of a community’s perception of the risks associated with long-range contaminants in traditional/country foods

3.5 Other Community-based Monitoring and Research Initiatives

It is recognized that some communities want to become more engaged in leading research on contaminants at their location. The NCP is, therefore, soliciting community and/or regionally led proposals to conduct small-scale and short duration monitoring activities related to contaminants from long-range sources. Projects related to local sources of contaminants (i.e. local contaminated sites) are not eligible for funding under the NCP. 

Projects under this category could include sampling and analysis of important traditional/country foods for contaminants that may pose a risk to human health and for which recent contaminant information is not available. This is also an opportunity for communities to become involved with new passive air sampling tools for persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Educational and training opportunities for local students interested in environmental science, public health and/or community wellness could be incorporated into project activities. Applicants are encouraged to build educational/training elements into their proposals.

3.6 Further Guidance

Projects under the Community-Based Monitoring and Research subprogram should be coordinated at a regional level with the assistance of the pertinent Regional Contaminants Committees (RCCs). Proposals to measure contaminants in traditional/country foods should be developed in consultation with regional health authorities so that data can be properly used for dietary exposure assessment. Regional health authorities are also responsible for developing and communicating health-related information in the region and will, therefore, need to be key partners in any community-based monitoring project with implications for human health.

Projects under the Community-Based Monitoring and Research subprogram that relate to the Environmental Monitoring and Research subprogram should complement, not duplicate, existing trend monitoring. Applicants should also look for ways to complement other programs (e.g., the Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program (CIMP) and the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan (NGMP)) and build on existing monitoring activities. Territorial departments of natural resources and other regional wildlife and fisheries management agencies may also be useful project partners.

Applicants wishing to submit a proposal under the Community-Based Monitoring and Research Blueprint are encouraged to work with NCP scientists who have expertise in the methods needed to accurately measure contaminant levels in environmental samples. It is important that the results of community knowledge projects be of the same high quality as the results produced under other NCP subprograms. In addition applicants are encouraged to consult with experts in participatory research methods to ensure rigour in the research design and methods expected in these kinds of projects.Participating analytical laboratories must follow rigorous quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) practices and participate in the NCP’s interlaboratory QA/QC program. Contact the NCP secretariat for more details on the QA/QC program.

When looking for guidance on proposal development, including ideas for potential projects and partners, applicants are encouraged to contact the chairs of their respective RCCs (see Contacts in Appendix B).

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