The sentinels of Nunavik

Fish smokehouse built by young Inuit and Crees in Tursujuq National Park during summer 2017.
Credit: Maxim Larrivée
Fumoir à poisson construit par les jeunes Inuit.e.s et Cri.e.s au parc national Tursujuq à l'été 2017.
  • Fumoir à poisson construit par les jeunes Inuit.e.s et Cri.e.s au parc national Tursujuq à l'été 2017.
  • Bourdon (Bombus sp.) observé au parc national Tursujuq.
  • Été 2017, jeunes Inuit.e.s et Cri.e.s participant à la collecte de papillons et de bourdons au parc national Tursujuq.
  • Coliade (Colias sp.) observé au parc national Tursujuq.
  • Parc national Tursujuq
The sentinels of Nunavik

A butterfly inventory at Wiyashakimi Lake in Tursujuq National Park

For a third consecutive summer I had the privilege of inventorying butterflies and other pollinating insects in Nunavik in the company of some young Inuit and Cree. This crazy idea for Sentinels of Nunavik came to me in 2010 and became a reality four years later. The goal of the project is to chart the important changes taking place in this unique environment – an environment whose preservation is essential to the survival of these high-energy young people’s way of life.

Direction Tursujuq

Establishing baseline knowledge of a park’s biodiversity is crucial, on the one hand in order to track the changes in that biodiversity, and on the other to ensure its integrity over the long term. As it happens, we still don’t know much about the insects of Québec’s Far North as a whole, and it was in that light that the Insectarium launched collaboration with SEPAQ and the Kativik Regional Government in 2014. After carrying out inventories in the Kuururjuaq and Pingualuit national parks (2015 and 2014/2016 respectively), this summer I took off from the side of Hudson Bay for the biggest of Nunavik’s parks: Tursujuq National Park.

Butterflies even in the Far North!

Under the supervision of Véronique Nadeau, a conservation officer at the park, and along with 10 young Inuit and Cree, we headed towards the area of Lake Wiyashakimi – which translates as Clearwater Lake in English. Our objective: to inventory the greatest possible number of butterflies, moths and bumblebee species.

The trouble is nothing’s simple in the Far North, since we’re at the mercy of the vagaries of Mother Nature. So the insects, which depend on heat and sunshine to be active, didn’t always turn up. All the same, we were able to capture the ones that were more tolerant of cool weather conditions. The result: over 30 species of moths, including some wonderful unusual discoveries.

Sentinels in the making…

In my eyes, the expedition was a triumph. The success of this type of expedition is not determined solely by the number of captures, but also by the connections that are forged among living things. So I was delighted to observe the young people’s interest in and obvious curiosity about the insects. Their pleasure in discovering and enjoying this still little-known wildlife was as touching for me as their increasing awareness of the environmental issues linked to the survival of their territory.

Starting next summer, some young sentinels will strike out on their own and conduct insect inventories themselves for the project.


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