The Potential Use of an Interactive Web-based Informatics Tool to Decrease the Incidence of Human-polar Bear Encounters Along the Western James Bay Coast of Ontario, Canada

By Christine D. Barbeau, Yukari Hori, William A. Gough, Jim D. Karagatzides, Daniel D. McCarthy, Don Cowan and Leonard J. S. Tsuji.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The James Bay region of sub-arctic Ontario, Canada, has seen a significant increase in mean surface-air temperatures and a significant trend towards longer ice-free periods. As polar bears (Ursus maritimus) use sea ice as a hunting platform to hunt ringed seals (Phoca hispida), polar bears have been negatively impacted. If polar bears are unable to achieve a minimum body mass to sustain themselves during the open water period, food-stressed polar bears will interact with First Nation Cree harvesting camps along the coast of James Bay. Historically, encounters between the Cree and polar bears during the spring harvest have been rare, but polar bear encounters are increasing. We generated plausible climate change projections for the region, using General Circulation Models (GCMs) and Regional Climate Models (RCMs), to investigate whether mean surface-air temperatures will continue to increase (and sea ice decrease). All climate models predict an increase in mean surface-air temperature for all seasons, and all time periods. We also found utilizing traditional environmental knowledge and time-series analyses that human encounters with polar bears have recently become non-random. Thus, there is a need for a real-time informatics tool that can be used collaboratively to store and display geospatial information on polar bears and firsthand observations to decrease encounters with the polar bears and/or increase the readiness of First Nation Cree in case they do encounter a polar bear; this is a proactive response to climate change. The collaborative-geomatics informatics tool was developed at the University of Waterloo; it is unique as the tool is based on the WIDE (Web Informatics Development Environment) toolkit, a declarative application engine that allows for rapid modification of the system. Polar bear sightings can be uploaded onto a satellite imagery map (high-resolution when available), along with any additional data (e.g., textual descriptions, pictures, videos and audio recordings of the encounter). This data will be made available in real-time. Community members will have instant access to the information and will be able to consult the informatics tool prior to heading out onto the land, allowing them to make plans either to avoid areas where polar bears have been observed and/or be prepared for a possible bear encounter.

Keywords: Collaborative Geomatics, Sub-Arctic, First Nation Communities, Polar Bear Encounters

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp.113-127. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 575.131KB).

Christine D. Barbeau

PhD Candidate, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Yukari Hori

Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

William A. Gough

Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jim D. Karagatzides

School of Environmental Studies, Georgian College, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Daniel D. McCarthy

Assistant Professor, Department of Environment and Resource Studies , Social Innovation Generation, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Don Cowan

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Leonard J. S. Tsuji

Professor, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


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