The Beluga Summit: Knowledge sharing of the Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga whale

Each summer thousands of beluga whales gather in the Makenzie Estuary of the Eastern Beaufort Sea, located in Canada’s Western Arctic. Recognized as one of Canada’s largest population of beluga, with an estimate of 40, 000 individuals, Eastern Beaufort Sea (EBS) beluga have economic, dietary, and cultural importance to Inuvialuit, the Inuit of Canada’s Western Arctic.

The Beluga Summit Special Issue, published in the open access journal Arctic Science, features papers using western science and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) that provide the state-of-knowledge on EBS beluga health and ecology. The papers encompass proceedings from The Beluga Summit held in Inuvik in 2016, a three-day meeting that brought together 80 participants from government, academia, and the Inuvialuit communities.

For more than 40 years, a community based monitoring program has captured data on the Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga whale population helping address community concerns and identify research directions. The research in The Beluga Summit highlights the partnerships and co-production of data and knowledge between scientists, co-management boards, and Inuvialuit communities.

The research in The Beluga Summit would not have been possible without the Inuvialuit communities. Inuvialuit hunters, families, and board members provided mentorship on knowledge sharing, opened doors to their homes and culture, and allowed scientists to work in their traditional whaling camps, to learn from them and with them.

Explore the Special Issue

  1. The many ways to “know” beluga
    Collings et al. document local knowledge of the Ulukhaktok community and the multiple meanings of “know”. Learn more.
  2. The deep, rich knowledge of harvesters
    Waugh et al. share the local beluga knowledge of the Tuktoyaktuk community and their experiences with climate change. Learn more.
  3. Listening for beluga
    Halliday et al. monitor the calls of beluga and other marine mammals to understand where they go throughout the year. Learn more.
  4. A look inside the ears of beluga
    Girdlestone et al. describe the morphology of the beluga’s inner ear to guide the identification of acoustic trauma. Learn more.
  5. Beluga health from an Inuvialuit perspective
    Ostertag et al. integrate TEK with western science to create a suite of local indicators about beluga condition, illness, and disease. Learn more.
  6. Risk of toxoplasmosis in beluga
    Rajnish et al. review the literature to determine the risk of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii to health of beluga. Learn more.
  7. Isolating the “Beluga Whale Herpes Virus”
    Nielson et al. describe a herpesvirus isolated from the blowholes of beluga. Learn more.
  8. Monitoring chronic stress with blubber
    Loseto et al. validate the use of cortisol levels in blubber as an indicator of stress in EBS beluga. Learn more.
  9. Mercury and beluga brains
    Ostertag et al. study brains of harvested beluga to understand links between mercury exposure and neurochemistry. Learn more.
  10. Rare harvest reveals new insights on beluga diet
    Loseto et al. combine community knowledge and analyze beluga stomachs to discover what beluga in Ulukhaktok eat. Learn more.
  11. Tracking contaminants of emerging concern
    Smythe et al. report temporal trends in levels of brominated and fluorinated contaminants in Canadian Arctic beluga. Learn more.
  12. Legacy contaminants in beluga
    Noel at al. report how levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in beluga have changed since the enactment of environmental regulations. Learn more.

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