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Seafloor Video Workshop in Nain, Nunatsiavut

By Myrah Graham & Zachary MacMillan-Kenny

We learn so much every time we are in Nunatsiavut. In April, we had the privilege of being invited to share our knowledge and expertise in surveying benthic life, which is the focal point of our research. A diverse group of over a dozen participants came together during the workshop to exchange insights and discuss the significance of benthic ecosystems and their importance for Imappivut, Nunatsiavut's developing marine management plan. These ecosystems serve as the foundation of marine food webs and have garnered increasing attention in terms of research and monitoring efforts. They play a vital role in sustaining valuable food sources such as Itik (Inuktitut for sea urchins), mussels, fish, and scallops, which hold immense importance for both the community and the ecosystem as a whole. As the Nunatsiavut Government Research Center (NGRAC) envisions the future of marine conservation, it has become evident that video annotation holds tremendous potential as a valuable tool for ensuring the productivity and preservation of coastal areas.

Where does one start with surveying the ocean floor? On the first day, we shared how we had come up with our research questions, which influence how and where we decide to survey. In defining the questions you want to answer, your survey design can then be created from there. Adam Templeton took everyone through the main components of the Deep Trekker ROV, and how to plan a field excursion. Although we were galvanized to head out the next day, the weather had other plans.

Snowy, blustery weather meant we spent day two indoors and cozy, discussing how to annotate video footage and practicing using BIIGLE. To make things more interesting, boys versus girls created a bit of competition on who could annotate the fastest, and who could annotate the most accurately. Lots of goading and teasing made the rest of the afternoon full of laughs, despite all the screen time.

On the Land (Nuna) at last on day three, we packed up the sled and our convoy of 8 Skidoos all headed to Anaktalak Bay, the site chosen by the participants for deploying the ROV. Our first task was to cut through the 4.5ft of ice, which proved to be a formidable challenge, exacerbated by a loose chain that required the assistance of three individuals to fix. Through teamwork and swift adaptation, we managed to stay on schedule, aiming for the 2 o'clock tide, the optimal time advised by Adam for operating the ROV. The anticipation had been building throughout the workshop, and now the moment had arrived—witnessing the inaugural journey of the Deep Trekker beneath the ice. Each participant had the opportunity to pilot the ROV using the control box, maneuvering the camera to reveal the mesmerizing sight of the ice from below and the captivating tube-dwelling anemones lurking beneath. With the sun casting its radiant glow on the ice and a cozy cabin nearby, we enjoyed a remarkable day honing our skills, indulging in moments of joy, and savoring hot dogs by the comforting fire.

After packing up and driving back to town, it was now time to share with the broader community. At the Illusuak cultural center, I presented my findings on rock cod and char habitats, and we had tables for community mapping, showing off the ROVs and connecting with Ocean School, an educational non-profit. 20 community members joined in on the event, and we were glad to meet and share with everyone.

The next day bright and early we headed to Jens Haven Memorial School, to spend the day sharing our passion for benthic life. We brought along an assortment of videos, specimens, ROVs/Drop cameras, and an exciting "search and find" activity, which captivated students from grades 4 to 9. Many recognized “Uncle Ama” in the videos, as well as several familiar benthic organisms like Itik, cod, and scallops. It’s clear the next generation cares about these critters, a shared passion that unites us all.

All in all, this week was an exercise in reciprocity, and even though we came to share our knowledge, once again we left Nunatsiavut having learned so much more.



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