Igliniit Project

This project is funded by IPY as part of the Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project (ISIUOP), of which Dr. Claudio Aporta of Carleton University is the PI.


To use snow machine-mounted technology to track Inuit travel routes and record observations.


Shari Fox, the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Association of Clyde River, the Hamlet Council of Clyde River, the Clyde River Research Committee, Dr. Kyle O'Keefe (Geomatics Engineering, University of Calgary) and geomatics engineering undergraduate students

Project Summary

The Igliniit Project brings together Inuit traditional knowledge with cutting edge technology. "Igliniit" in Inuktitut (the Inuit language) refers to trails routinely travelled by members of a community. The location, use, condition, and changes in Igliniit over time can help us understand a great deal about the environment and Inuit-environment relationships. In the Igliniit Project, geomatics engineers and Inuit hunters come together to design a new integrated GPS system that can be easily and affordably mounted on a snow machine, the regular mode of travel used by Inuit hunters who log thousands of kilometres per year. The system will automatically log the location of the snow machine every thirty seconds, providing geo-referenced waypoints that can later be mapped to produce the traveller’s routes. In addition to tracking location, the Igliniit system will log weather conditions (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind) and the observations of hunters (e.g. animals, ice features, ice hazards, placenames) through a customized PDA (Personal Digital Assistant/Palm Pilot) screen that has a user-friendly icon interface. Digital cameras on board will provide visual images that hunters want to capture at certain waypoints. The data logged in this system will be downloaded in the community and sent to the ISIUOP project for the creation of maps. These maps will integrate the collected data, showing the routes of individual snow machines, along with the geo-referenced observations of the hunters and weather conditions. When the maps of different machines are overlayed, and more maps are accumulated over time, the result is a valuable picture of Inuit-land-sea ice use that combines both quantitative data (GPS, meteorological data) and qualitative data (hunters' observations).

It is important to note that the Igliniit system has multiple uses and applications for the community, in addition to sea ice studies. For example, individual hunters can print off their own maps and keep records of their travel and harvests. Collectively, hunters can use the maps to see patterns in hunting success, changes in animal populations, changes in snow conditions, connections between weather conditions and travel conditions, and locations of hazards. The maps are not only useful for hunters. Community leaders can use the maps in matters related to land use planning or land use negotiations, to clearly and easily show up-to-the-day use of land and resources that might be affected by the placement of a mine or protected area. Schools can use the maps in combination with trips on the land to study hunting, geography, and weather, for example. Lastly, Igliniit has the potential to serve a key role in search and rescue operations. In some communities, these operations are increasing, as sea ice and other environmental conditions become less predictable and younger hunters go out without as strong a base of knowledge and skills for being on the land compared to previous generations. The Igliniit system can be designed to incorporate a real-time tracking component, so that a base back in the community can quickly locate a stranded hunter. Combined with an FRS radio, the system provides a way for a person on the land to quickly call for help and their exact location is known. Without radio contact, this kind of Igliniit system can still help, alerting others back in the community to a snow machine that has stopped moving, or seems lost, and may be in need of assistance.

The Igliniit System is being developed collaboratively by Inuit hunters in Clyde River, geomatics engineers from the University of Calgary, and Shari Fox, a researcher and resident of Clyde River. Inuit will provide input on their needs for the system, for example, the conditions it must withstand and the observations they would want to log so that the customized screen can be designed and programmed (e.g. icons to geo-reference polar bears, seals, whales, cracks, icebergs, pack ice, etc.). Dr. Kyle O'Keefe at the Department of Geomatics Engineering at the University of Calgary will direct the construction and programming of the Igliniit system, with the work to be carried out by a senior year group of undergraduates as their project for an engineering design course (ENGO 550).

Related Resources

Igliniit Project at Carleton University

Contact NSIDC User Services for more information.