TRAC3 team presentation on Adaptation Tracking at the Ouranos Consortium

2015 April 17

TRAC3 team members (pictured) gave a presentation on Adaptation Tracking at the Ouranos Consortium this week. They covered topics including the 4Cs of adaptation tracking, the adaptation readiness framework, urban adaptation globally, public health adaptation in Canada, tracking adaptation in Nunavut, and the big challenges in adaptation tracking, followed by thought-provoking discussion with the Ouranos team.

In May the TRAC3 team will be chairing the “Tracking adaptation to climate change” session at the European Climate Change Adaptation (ECCA) conference in Copenhagen.

For up to date information on TRAC3 activities check out the CCARG website, TRAC3 website, and twitter accounts @ccadapt and @tradaptccc.

Vulnerability to the health effects of climate variability in rural southwestern Uganda

2015 April 15

Labbé, J., Ford, J.D., Berrang-Ford, L., Donnelly, B., Lwasa, S., Namanya, D.B., Twesigomwe, S., Harper, S.L., and the IHACC Research Team. 2015. Find PDF here. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.


Vulnerability to the health impacts of climate change will be shaped by the existing burden of ill- health and is expected to be highest in poor and socio-economically marginalized populations. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is considered a highly vulnerable region. This paper analyses the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of rural Bakiga communities in southwestern Uganda to climate-sensitive health risks. The objectives were threefold: i) identify key climate-sensitive, community-identified health priorities; ii) describe and characterize determinants of sensitivity to these health priorities at the individual, community and regional levels; and iii) assess the adaptive capacity of Bakiga. Data collection employed a combination of individual and key informant interviews, biographies, future storylines, and Photovoice. Three key health risks were identified by the study communities (malaria, food insecurity, and gastrointestinal illnesses) – all affected by local climatic and environmental conditions, livelihoods, land use changes, and socio-economic conditions. Adaptation within these communities is dependent on their capacity to reduce sensitivities to identified health challenges among the potential of increasing exposures. Crop diversification, reducing deforestation, expanding of livestock rearing, transfer of traditional knowledge, and access to affordable health services are among potential strategies identified. We demonstrate significant existing vulnerabilities to present day climate-related health risks and highlight the importance of non-climatic processes and local conditions in creating sensitivity to health risks. Our place-based understanding is useful to inform interventions or policies aimed to reduce exposure and sensitivity and support adaptive capacity as the conditions these communities face are consistent with many other sub-Saharan African countries.

Anomalous climatic conditions during winter 2010–2011 and vulnerability of the traditional Inuit food system in Iqaluit, Nunavut

2015 April 15

Statham, S., Ford, J., Berrang-Ford, L., Lardeau, M-P., Gough, W., and Siewierski, R. (2015). Find PDF here. Polar Record, 51(3), 301-317


This study examines how climatic extremes during winter 2010–2011 affected the traditional food system in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This winter was anomalous throughout the Canadian Arctic, and manifested itself locally by warmer temperatures and decreased ice coverage. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with hunters (n = 25), a fixed question survey with public housing residents (n = 100), as well as analysis of remotely sensed sea-ice charts and temperature data from the Iqaluit weather station, this work identifies and characterises the extreme climatic conditions experienced, their subsequent effects on Iqaluit’s traditional food system, and coping strategies used for dealing with food-related stresses. The results show increased environmental stress on the traditional food system compared to previous years. Freeze up occurred 59 days later than the average for the 1982–2010 period, while mean annual temperatures were 4.9ºC higher than the climatological mean, which negatively impacted hunters’ harvests and residents’ food supplies. Coping strategies alleviated some stresses, but adaptability was limited for financially insecure households reliant on income support. The study shows that when challenging socioeconomic conditions, such as those associated with public housing, are coupled with significant environmental stress, such as experienced during that winter, the vulnerability of the traditional food system is exacerbated. We suggest that winter 2010–2011 can be used as an analogue for exploring future food system vulnerabilities, with climate models projecting similar conditions in the coming decades.

Joanna Petrasek MacDonald reflects on fieldwork in Greenland and Nunavut

2015 April 9

Joanna in Nuuk. Photo: Sara Statham.

Last month, Joanna Petrasek MacDonald (recent CCARG Masters student and current IK-ADAPT project co-ordinator) spent two weeks in Nuuk, Greenland followed by two weeks in Iqaluit, Nunavut speaking to decision makers, civil society organizations, Inuit organizations, and researchers to learn about the country food markets in Greenland and if such a structure would be feasible and desirable in Nunavut. This project is being done for the Nunavut Food Security Coalition. While the study is currently in the data analysis phase, a report and publication on this work is planned and Joanna will be presenting the findings to the Coalition in Iqaluit as well as at the International Congress of Circumpolar Health in Oulu, Finland this June, so stay tuned. In the meantime, Joanna provided us with some pictures and thoughts about her experience in these two Arctic capitals:

Nuuk, Greenland

“This was my first time in both Greenland and Nunavut and it was an incredible experience to go from Nuuk to Iqaluit in a month! While I can’t speak to the research aspect of the trip yet, I can tell you about my impression of the cities and some of the things I experienced when I wasn’t doing interviews!

Nuuk felt to me like an Arctic metropolis with its bus system, mall, museums, restaurants, cafes, and shops! Surrounded by massive mountains and open water leading into the fjord, this capital of 16000 feels like a fusion of city life and the great outdoors. While Iqaluit was by far much colder, Nuuk had quantities of snow like I’ve never seen before. The constant flurries would wipe away any trace of footprints within an hour and the grey skies never cleared for more than a few hours until the next snow-filled clouds ready to dump would roll in. One antidote for the constant grey was the colour of the houses and buildings. Everywhere you turn, the land is dotted with bright blue, yellow, red, and green structures and this rainbow of colour never failed to lift my spirits. When the skies did clear and the sun poked out, suddenly mountains in the distance, like giants standing on guard of the great land, could be seen and were enough to take your breath away.  I managed to snap some pictures that only begin to capture the beauty of this place.

Three tupilaks at the Greenland National Museum

As Greenland’s capital city, Nuuk houses the Greenland National Museum, which offers an amazing exhibit telling the story of Greenland’s fascinating history. I was blown away by all the different artefacts, pictures, and information on display. Pictured here are three of the tupilaks on display. Tupilaks are little monster figurines often made out of animal bones. From what I understand, they were made as part of witchcraft or shamanism practices. You can read more about tupilaks here. This webpage mentions one of the tupilaks in Nuuk’s art museum (which has an impressive display of tupilaks as well as an incredible art collection!) The tupilak they mention is said to be haunted and to move around his display case. While I did check it out, I can’t attest to witnessing any movement while I was in the museum…perhaps the tupilak is a night owl?

Mural of Poonojorteq, a hunter from Ammassalik in Nuuk

On the topic of art, I’ve also included a picture of a beautiful mural in the city centre that was painted from a picture taken in 1906 of Poonojorteq, a hunter from Ammassalik (a settlement in East Greenland). The laughing expression on this man’s face always cracked a smile from me when I walked by him. (I should mention that there are also beautiful, colourful murals in Iqaluit, I distinctly remember ones by the hospital though didn’t get any pictures.)

Another good reason to smile was the warm hospitality I experienced throughout my time in Nuuk. This hospitality always included some type of Greenlandic food. During a visit to the new country food market (called brættet in Danish and kalaaliiaraq in Greenlandic) a fresh delivery of seal happened to come in and a taste of raw harp seal liver was immediately offered. Down at the docks, the fishermen getting their lines baited and ready to take out were happy to chat about their work over a snack of seal liver and blubber (which melts in your mouth!) In addition to seal, I was lucky enough to try caribou steaks, caribou soup, mattak, and some Greenland cod, shrimp, and halibut for dinner with new friends. Lastly, I was fortunate to attend my first kaffemik, a Greenland tradition. A kaffemik is like an open house hosted to celebrate a birthday, wedding, graduation or other special event and always includes a spread of country foods and/or cakes.

Left: Fishermen prepare their lines Right: Fresh seal meat at the local market, Nuuk.

I was sad to say goodbye to Greenland but excited to say hello to Iqaluit. I’d heard so much about Iqaluit from fellow CCARG members and friends who live there so it was great to finally get the chance to see and experience it for myself. The beauty of the tundra did not disappoint! On the flight there I couldn’t tear myself away the window as I took in the incredible sight of ocean turning into ice. As we began to descend I marvelled at the ice formations I could see from the air (must be the geographer in me). I would describe Frobisher Bay as a field of mounds of jagged ice chunks. Clearly, I’m no expert in this type of physical geography but I think it has something to do with the freezing process in the bay involving the force of tides, which creates an upheaval of ice.

The ice on Frobisher Bay

Iqaluit was much colder than Nuuk but I didn’t let the -50°C weather deter me from exploring. Most of the highlights from my trip involve walking: a walk in Sylvia Grinnell park, hiking up Hospital hill, walking the Apex trail, and walking out onto the bay. Unlike Greenland, most days were clear as a bell and perfect for enjoying walks to take in the incredible scenery, fresh air, and fun sounds the snow made under my boots. I got used to having iced eyelashes and wisps of hair frozen in place within the first 5 minutes of being outside, but I never got used to the stark beauty and vastness of the landscape. Even the the nights were beautiful with the most incredible sunsets over the tundra and the Northern lights slithering through the sky.

Ice concert with Terje Isungset

While being outdoors was my preferred option, there was still plenty to do indoors when I needed to warm up! I enjoyed trips to the museum and visitor center, the book sale at the library, a talk from P.J. Akeeagok (President of Qikiqtank Inuit Association) at a Press Club event, and an incredible show at the Legion featuring The Jerry Cans. I also had the chance to go to an ice concert! Terje Isungset (a musician from Norway and creates music with handmade instruments out of ice) was in town and played two concerts. It was amazing to listen to all the different sounds made with ice. Interestingly, Terje mentioned that the ice they used for these concerts was the most fragile ice he has ever worked with!

While Nuuk and Iqaluit have their differences when it comes to temperature, population, or type of seal sold, both these Northern capitals hold the beauty and the people that, in my experience, make the Arctic such an incredible and special place!

Where ocean meets sea ice

TRAC3 and CCARG members presenting to the Ouranos consortium

2015 April 7

TRAC3 and CCARG members Dr. James Ford, Dr. Lea Berrang Ford, Malcolm Araos, Stephanie Austin, Melanie Flynn and Jolène Labbé will be presenting their research on adaptation tracking to the Ouranos consortium Wednesday April 8th. Dr. Lea Berrang Ford will discuss the questions “Are we adapting to climate change?”, “Can we track adaptation?” and “What does adaptation ‘look’ like?”. Malcolm Araos and Stephanie Austin will discuss their research tracking adaptation in urban areas globally and in the health sector in Canadian jurisdictions. Melanie Flynn and Jolène Labbé will present their upcoming research projects on adaptation to climate change in Nunavut.

Ouranos, a consortium on regional climatology and adaptation to climate change, was created in 2001 as a joint initiative by the Quebec government, Hydro-Québec and Environment Canada, with the financial support of Valorisation-Recherche-Québec. Their vision is to provide Quebec and all of Canada with an organization capable of meshing climate science with the adaptation needs of society.

Stephanie Austin awarded the CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship

2015 April 2

Congratulations to CCARG member and TRAC3 researcher Stephanie Austin, who was awarded the CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship. This scholarship will fund her Master’s research examining adaptation to climate change in the health sector as part of the Tracking Research in Adaptation to Climate Change Consortium (TRAC3). She will begin her Master’s degree in September 2015, supervised by Dr. James Ford and Dr. Lea Berrang Ford in the Department of Geography.

For more information on TRAC3 research please visit

Linnaea Jasiuk: Memories from the Ulukhaktok Kingalik Jamboree

2015 March 24

Drumming at Jacks Bay, Ulukhaktok

Each year the community of Ulukhaktok marks the migration of the Eider duck, known locally as kingaliks (male) and mitiinnaq (female). These birds, both nutritionally and culturally rich, are an important component of a northern diet. Each spring the birds migrate following open water leads and pass directly by the shores of the community. This migration route is normally predictable and brings them near enough to the edge of the ice where they become more easily accessible to hunters. This can be a bountiful season for many hunters, some harvesting as many as 100 ducks to last the year. It also elicits fond memories of spring times spent with family at key hunting locations near Mashuyak. Ulukhaktok celebrates the joy and thankfulness for the migration each year at the Kingalik Jamboree.

The first time I visited Ulukhaktok in 2012 I missed the Jamboree by a week but heard all about the cookouts, games, and celebrations. Given the excitement and pride with which people shared their jamboree stories, I knew that it was something I wanted to experience one day! This year, on my second trip to Ulukhaktok, I was there for the return of the Kingaliks and got the full jamboree experience. Food was a central part of this experience with meals like musk ox stir-fry, caribou quak (frozen meat delicacy), piffy (a dried char treat), and every combination in between.

Plucking contest at the Ulukhaktok Jamboree

What stood out as much as, if not more than, the food itself was the level of participation and cooperation that made these meals (serving 400 people) successful. Throughout the entire jamboree period, women of all generations could be seen chopping, stirring, frying, or cleaning so that there was always pan sizzling over the fires or someone mixing a stir-fry or flipping bannock. I joined in by picking up an ulu to slice, dice, chop, and mince ingredients destined for one of the many frying pans. The cooking process fascinated me and the food was delicious. Everyone took great pride in their dishes and their country food from the land and, as I was someone from out of town, they made sure that I had a taste of everything.

What struck me about these games was the way they promoted cross-generational interactions and learning.

The games were another fun part of the jamboree and included a fishing derby, a duck hunting competition, plucking feathers from a Kingalik or Mitiinnaq, and skinning a seal. What struck me about these games was the way they promoted cross-generational interactions and learning. For example, teams often consisted of Elders and youth who worked together to be the first to complete a task. It also quickly became apparent to me that these were more than just games; they were lessons and channels for cultural continuity and skills transmission. I watched as Elders guided their young teammates to shoot with precision, pull feathers in the proper direction, and flesh a sealskin to make it soft. The games were played with an impressive spirit of gamesmanship and integrity with focus on collective success. In addition to these team games there was an assortment of laughter inducing games such as ‘best goggle tan’, egg races, and karaoke.

The jamboree festivities demonstrated the strong community culture I experienced throughout my entire stay in Ulukhaktok. I learned that community collaboration and cooperation are important elements of life in Ulukhaktok. For example, those hunters who managed to harvest nearly 100 ducks would regularly share with their extended family or neighbours. Not every weekend in Ulukhaktok was as jam-packed as Jamboree weekend, but it was an excellent introductory course into the Ulukhaktok way of doing things.

Kaitlin Patterson and Stephanie Austin present at the 5th annual McGill Sustainability Research Symposium

2015 March 17

Kaitlin Patterson (IHACC member) and Stephanie Austin (TRAC3 and CCARG member) presented their research at the 5th annual McGill Sustainability Research Symposium March 13, 2015. Kaitlin discussed her research on food security among indigenous Batwa communities in Uganda, while Stephanie presented her research on climate change adaptation in Canada’s health sector.

Follow them on twitter! Stephanie: @se_austin and Kaitlin: @kaitlinaislin

Photo credit: Kate Trincsi

Photo credit: Stephanie Austin

Vulnerability and adaptive capacity of community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon: a case study from Panaillo

2015 March 16

Sherman, M., Ford, J.D., Llanos-Cuentas, A., Valdivia, M.J., Bussalleu, A. and the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) Research Group. (2015). Find PDF here. Natural Hazards.


Rainfall variability and related hydrological disasters are serious threats to agricultural production in developing countries. Since projections of climate change indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of climatic hazards such as flooding and droughts, it is important to understand communities’ adaptive capacity to extreme hydrological events. This research uses a case study approach to characterize the current vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the food system to hydrological hazards in Panaillo, a flood-prone indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon. Participatory methods were utilized to examine how biophysical and socioeconomic factors constrain or enable local adaptive capacity to climatic hazards over time. Seasonal flooding was shown to strongly influence agriculture and fishing cycles. Panaillo residents have developed several adaptive strategies to adjust to hydrological extremes, such as food-sharing and the cultivation of fast-growing crops on riverbeds. However, Panaillo residents generally lack the necessary human, physical, social, and natural resources to effectively employ their adaptive mechanisms as a result of major social and environmental changes in the area. Economic development, low institutional capacity, climate variability, and the assimilation social model in Peru all have profound effects on the food system and health by affecting the ways in which adaptive strategies and traditional livelihoods are practiced. Climate change has the potential to exacerbate these socioeconomic and biophysical drivers and further compromise community food systems in the Peruvian Amazon in the future.

Vulnerability to climate change in three hot spots in Africa and Asia: key issues for policy-relevant adaptation and resilience-building research

2015 March 12

De Souza, K., Kituyi, E., Harvey, B., Leone, M., Murali, K.S., Ford, J.D. (2015). Find Open Access PDF here. Regional Environmental Change.


Providing sound evidence to inform decision-making that considers the needs of the most vulnerable to climate change will help both adaptation and development efforts. Such evidence is particularly important in climate change “hot spots”, where strong climate signal and high concentrations of vulnerable people are present. These hot spots include semiarid regions and deltas of Africa and Asia, and glacier- and snowpack-dependent river basins of South Asia. In advance of a major research effort focusing on these three hot spots, studies were commissioned to identify and characterize the current status of knowledge in each on biophysical impacts, social vulnerability, and adaptation policy and practice. The resulting seven papers are brought together in this special edition, with this editorial introduction providing background on these hot spots, the program through which the studies were commissioned, and an overview of the papers that follow.

TRAC3 Emerging Results Booklet available online

2015 March 10

The Tracking Research in Adaptation to Climate Change Consortium (TRAC3) was launched in 2014. Here, we present early TRAC3 research outputs, as well as relevant pre-2014 publications. Though some of these publications were not developed as TRAC3, they were all led by authors that are now members of TRAC3, reflect the research directions of the consortium, and demonstrate the foundational research that led to the creation of TRAC3.

CCARG members to participate in Finding your Coordinates

2015 March 10

Michelle Maillet and Stephanie Austin will be participating in the “Finding your Coordinates” panel event, presented by the Geography Mentorship Program. The panelists will be McGill Geography Alumni with diverse backgrounds and interests, here to talk about their career paths and choices along the way. It will be a casual event with lots of room for questions.

Details: Thursday March 12th, 5:00 – 7:00pm, in Burnside Hall Rm 426.
Link to the Facebook event page.

Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec blogs about TRAC3 research

2015 March 9

The Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ) posted about our recently published article “Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in Canadian Jurisdictions” on their blog.

En ce qui concerne l’adaptation aux changements climatiques en santé au Canada, les disparités sont énormes ! En témoigne ce graphique publié dans la dernière étude de Stéphanie Austin de l’Université McGill nommée « Adaptation de la santé publique au changement climatique dans les institutions canadiennes » publiée dans le International Journal of Environmental research and public health. Le graphique ci-dessous traduit l’énorme différence entre le nombre d’initiatives mises en place selon les provinces canadiennes. Mettant en place de nombreuses initiatives dans le domaine de la santé en général, les maladies infectieuses, les initiatives liées à la chaleur, les inondations, les tempêtes et la sécurité alimentaire, le Québec se démarque dans toutes les catégories.

Continue reading in French by clicking here.

Kaitlyn Finner’s Notes from the Field

2015 March 6

Photo: Kaitlyn Finner

This week Masters student Kaitlyn Finner and community-based researchers Inez Shiwak and Lisa Palliser-Bennett are meeting with community members in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut to hear their perspectives on food inventories and photo card interviews that were conducted over the course of a year, from May 2013 to 2014.

The participatory methods were adapted for the Rigolet based project and the research team is working to better understand how the methods can be further adapted for future food related research in Rigolet, and other communities that may be interested.

It’s been a great week so far with lots of interviews and amazing weather, but the real highlight is set to take place this weekend when the 2015 Winter Sports Meet is held at Northern Lights Academy in Rigolet for school teams from along the Northern coast of Labrador!

Systematic review approaches for climate change adaptation research

2015 February 25

Berrang-Ford, L., Pearce, T., and Ford, J.D. (2015). Find Open Access PDF here. Regional Environmental Change.

Recent controversy has led to calls for increased standardization and transparency in the methods used to synthesize climate change research. Though these debates have focused largely on the biophysical dimensions of climate change, human dimensions research is equally in need of improved methodological approaches for research synthesis. Systematic review approaches, and more recently realist review methods, have been used within the health sciences for decades to guide research synthesis. Despite this, penetration of these approaches into the social and environmental sciences has been limited. Here, we present an analysis of approaches for systematic review and research synthesis and examine their applicability in an adaptation context. Customized review frameworks informed by systematic approaches to research synthesis provide a conceptually appropriate and practical opportunity for increasing methodological transparency and rigor in synthesizing and tracking adaptation research. This review highlights innovative applications of systematic approaches, with a focus on the unique challenges of integrating multiple data sources and formats in reviewing climate change adaptation policy and practice. We present guidelines, key considerations, and recommendations for systematic review in the social sciences in general and adaptation research in particular. We conclude by calling for increased conceptual and methodological development of systematic review approaches to address the methodological challenges of synthesizing and tracking adaptation to climate change.