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Monitoring climate change? There’ll be an app for that

Greg Jacque from Postville uses his iPad to record conditions out on the land. A team of researchers is developing an app to streamline, collect and share that data in real time.
Greg Jacque from Postville uses his iPad to record conditions out on the land. A team of researchers is developing an app to streamline, collect and share that data in real time.

Rigolet researchers working on app to track health and environment

Researchers from the University of Guelph and Cape Breton University have been working in Rigolet for the last decade collecting data on how climate change impacts health.

Now they’re working on a new way to share that and other data.

The researchers, Ashlee Cunsolo and Sherilee Harper, are developing InukNet, an app that would collaboratively monitor changes in the area’s environment and health.

Harper said when they were trying to figure out which research project would happen next, they got a clear message from the community — it would be good if they could move from collecting data on how climate change is affecting health to integrate more action into it.

“Not just collecting more data but also actually doing something about it,” Harper said.

“So instead of just further understanding how climate change was impacting health, integrate some sort of response so that we were doing something about it.”

The duo looked into existing studies that have been published on climate change and health and how researchers were moving from collecting more data to taking action.

They also looked at what community members were already doing in the communities to see how they were already adapting to climate change impacts on health.

That’s where the idea of this community-based monitoring system came in.

They found most community-based monitoring systems were paper based, where people send observations in to researchers.

It works well in some places, but was not what the people of Nunatsiavut were looking for.

“They were wondering if it could be instant, so they wouldn’t have to wait a few months for data to be analyzed, so it becomes available to the community,” Harper said.

“That’s where the idea of the app comes in. Community members had already being going out on the ice with their iPods and iPads or cameras and taking photos of trail conditions and coming back home and posting them on Facebook.”

Cunsolo said the idea of an app fit well into the community of Rigolet, which has a digital storytelling and media research centre.

“There’s a high comfort level with technology there and there’s a high expertise in the community on how to use it,” she said.

“So that also really played into why this sort of app was preferred by the community.”

They have been working closely with many community members, both in collecting the data and in getting the framework ready for when it comes online.

Charlie Flowers is working with the researchers on getting ready for the launch, and will be providing support to people using the app once it does.

Flowers said he thinks the app could be extremely useful.

“One application I see for this app is that it’s a way to share public safety information quickly and easily,” he said.

“Right now, the North is experiencing some drastic changes due to climate change, which have made things like weather and travel conditions unpredictable. Areas that were once safe to travel over may not necessarily be safe anymore.”

 If a hunter is out on the land and notices some bad ice, for example, they will be able to document it by taking pictures or videos, recording the co-ordinates, and pushing out a warning to others in the community, Flowers said.

“This makes it much more effective than passing on the information via word of mouth, not only because it’s quicker but also because you’ll have the visual representation of the picture or video to go along with it,” he said.

They have been working with the community for the last eight months on what exactly the features and capabilities needed are.

Cunsolo said this type of participatory approach is an interesting way to create something and isn’t the normal way technology like this is developed.

“It’s not something that pre-existed, it’s not something that’s being imposed upon the community, it’s the community continually saying, ‘We want this, we want to be able to do this, we want this style, we want to be able to incorporate these options.’ And then, the programmers are responding to that,” she said.

“Usually with a lot of technology it’s not in a participatory design process like this. Because of it, we don’t know what the final product is going to look like.”

Some of the features they know it will contain are the ability to capture audio, text, video and photographs.

It will also include survey questions to collect people’s experiences both when they are out and back in the community.

This data will have a number of implications, for safety, for health and for information sharing.

“We’re trying to streamline the process a bit,” Harper said. “People are already posting things on Facebook, but if you want to know trail conditions somewhere, you might by chance come across it on your feed but you might not. But if you want trail conditions or how the ice looks in a certain area, having a place to go to get that information, to streamline that information coming in, would be really helpful.”

They anticipate a soft launch in August during the Rigolet Salmon Festival, when some households will start piloting the initial app, and then 35 houses are on board for the fall.

 

 

Researchers from the University of Guelph and Cape Breton University have been working in Rigolet for the last decade collecting data on how climate change impacts health.

Now they’re working on a new way to share that and other data.

The researchers, Ashlee Cunsolo and Sherilee Harper, are developing InukNet, an app that would collaboratively monitor changes in the area’s environment and health.

Harper said when they were trying to figure out which research project would happen next, they got a clear message from the community — it would be good if they could move from collecting data on how climate change is affecting health to integrate more action into it.

“Not just collecting more data but also actually doing something about it,” Harper said.

“So instead of just further understanding how climate change was impacting health, integrate some sort of response so that we were doing something about it.”

The duo looked into existing studies that have been published on climate change and health and how researchers were moving from collecting more data to taking action.

They also looked at what community members were already doing in the communities to see how they were already adapting to climate change impacts on health.

That’s where the idea of this community-based monitoring system came in.

They found most community-based monitoring systems were paper based, where people send observations in to researchers.

It works well in some places, but was not what the people of Nunatsiavut were looking for.

“They were wondering if it could be instant, so they wouldn’t have to wait a few months for data to be analyzed, so it becomes available to the community,” Harper said.

“That’s where the idea of the app comes in. Community members had already being going out on the ice with their iPods and iPads or cameras and taking photos of trail conditions and coming back home and posting them on Facebook.”

Cunsolo said the idea of an app fit well into the community of Rigolet, which has a digital storytelling and media research centre.

“There’s a high comfort level with technology there and there’s a high expertise in the community on how to use it,” she said.

“So that also really played into why this sort of app was preferred by the community.”

They have been working closely with many community members, both in collecting the data and in getting the framework ready for when it comes online.

Charlie Flowers is working with the researchers on getting ready for the launch, and will be providing support to people using the app once it does.

Flowers said he thinks the app could be extremely useful.

“One application I see for this app is that it’s a way to share public safety information quickly and easily,” he said.

“Right now, the North is experiencing some drastic changes due to climate change, which have made things like weather and travel conditions unpredictable. Areas that were once safe to travel over may not necessarily be safe anymore.”

 If a hunter is out on the land and notices some bad ice, for example, they will be able to document it by taking pictures or videos, recording the co-ordinates, and pushing out a warning to others in the community, Flowers said.

“This makes it much more effective than passing on the information via word of mouth, not only because it’s quicker but also because you’ll have the visual representation of the picture or video to go along with it,” he said.

They have been working with the community for the last eight months on what exactly the features and capabilities needed are.

Cunsolo said this type of participatory approach is an interesting way to create something and isn’t the normal way technology like this is developed.

“It’s not something that pre-existed, it’s not something that’s being imposed upon the community, it’s the community continually saying, ‘We want this, we want to be able to do this, we want this style, we want to be able to incorporate these options.’ And then, the programmers are responding to that,” she said.

“Usually with a lot of technology it’s not in a participatory design process like this. Because of it, we don’t know what the final product is going to look like.”

Some of the features they know it will contain are the ability to capture audio, text, video and photographs.

It will also include survey questions to collect people’s experiences both when they are out and back in the community.

This data will have a number of implications, for safety, for health and for information sharing.

“We’re trying to streamline the process a bit,” Harper said. “People are already posting things on Facebook, but if you want to know trail conditions somewhere, you might by chance come across it on your feed but you might not. But if you want trail conditions or how the ice looks in a certain area, having a place to go to get that information, to streamline that information coming in, would be really helpful.”

They anticipate a soft launch in August during the Rigolet Salmon Festival, when some households will start piloting the initial app, and then 35 houses are on board for the fall.

 

 

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