Empowering our communities to map rough ice and slush for safer sea-ice travel in Inuit Nunangat

Sea-ice roughness, thickness and slush are key characteristics that determine safe and efficient travel for Inuit. The changing climate is negatively affecting these sea-ice characteristics causing increased
travel accidents and search-and-rescue incidents. Sea ice is not only a hunting platform and travel highway, it is part of our culture and identity and changing sea-ice conditions are also negatively
affecting our mental health, food security and cultural practices.

By combining our Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), satellite data and state-of-the-art uncrewed airborne vehicles (UAVs, or
drones), we will co-produce new information on sea ice and snow roughness and slush for the operational SmartICE Ice Travel Safety Maps. The production of these maps will be piloted in our
partner communities of Arctic Bay, Gjoa Haven, Nain, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, and Salluit, and eventually be expanded to all SmartICE communities (>24) in Inuit Nunangat. Our approach will be
grounded in IQ, and include a co-designed Inuit training program for UAV-based sea ice monitoring to augment the mature environmental data collection developed by SmartICE. We will adapt UAVs and
sensors to collect high-resolution topographic and electromagnetic data for local travel safety maps, as well as ground-truth a series of novel satellite products of sea-ice thickness and roughness, based on
optical and micro-wave frequencies. With our Arctic Eider Society partner, a growing network of Inuit Nunangat communities will be able to access in near real-time these new satellite and in-situ data
products and SmartICE Ice Travel Safety Maps through the Indigenous Knowledge Social Network platform (SIKU). At the request f our Community Management Committees, the local travel safety maps
will also be distributed in paper format within communities.

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£536,477 GBP
Start date
5 May 2022
2 years 11 months 30 days
End date
4 May 2025