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Arctic Borderlands Manual


The materials include:

  • An interview guide

  • Indicators overviews 

  • Survey form

  • Example of summary of survey answers

  • Publications


The manual for Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Society (ABEKS) is called an interview guide. A set of guidelines provides an overview of the monitoring process. The guidelines are called "Training Workbook for Community Ecosystem Monitors and Interviewers." The interview guide is about 15 to 20 pages, and changes a bit each year. One part is for berry experts, another is for caribou experts, and another is for fish experts. 


The community monitor has to submit 20 completed sections for each part. This means they need to interview more than 20 people, depending on whether the experts they interview know about berries and caribou, or berries and fish, or other combinations. There are other parts of the interview form that deal with observations of unusual weather, other animals and travel patterns that everyone needs to answer. Community monitors sometimes say that the people they interview find the interviews are too long and that some questions repeat. There have been small changes to the questions asked each year. 

The guidelines for interviews are available here: 







Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Cooperative is a community based monitoring program of the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Society (ABEKS). It documents local experiences of ecological change within the range of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. ABEKS is comprised of and partners with Inuvialuit and Gwich’in organizations and governments, co-management groups, scientists and other government agencies. The project was started in 1994 by people living and working in the Northern Yukon. The group identified three main issues as being important for ecological monitoring in this area: climate change, contaminants and regional development. They identified the need to bring together science and local and traditional knowledge to promote better decision making in the North. 


ABEKS data has been used by academics, researchers, and other stakeholders. ABEKS periodically reviews the utility of the data through program review and data analysis. The data has been evaluated as a stand-alone line of evidence that may be used in decision-making to the benefit of people living in the North and dependent on Northern resources. It has also been validated by its accurate prediction of Porcupine Caribou herd size at a time when aerial survey data was not available and computer modelling generated a significant underestimate.


The expected results of the program is to make Inuvialuit and Gwich’in knowledge available to decision makers and strengthening their ability to create sound conservation goals. The program also provides place based training and may contribute to an evidence-based approach to adaptive management and climate change preparedness in the North.



Community monitors are contracted and trained to conduct community based ecological monitoring interviews. Local Renewable Resource Councils/Hunters and Trappers Associations support the program by identifying the monitor and interviewees and providing administrative support. 


Senior monitors mentoring a youth (age 18-29 years) monitor in each community.


Observations are recorded, archived in a database, summarized and validated by the communities.

Local experts are asked questions about what they observe on the land in many categories, including caribou, fish, birds, berries and unusual weather events.

Community monitors upload the survey answers to an online database. A summary of the data is presented to each community at the end of the monitoring season. 

Community monitors prepare a written summary of the main things they have learned from people in their community. The reports are compiled and returned to the community each year. Examples can be found here: 






Occasionally ABEKS organizes a gathering for communities to exchange information and discuss methodology and use of the data. Scientists, researchers, funders and others are invited to the gatherings, which creates an opportunity to connect with the communities and people involved in the project and to share and update information and discuss new opportunities to work together.


Community monitors interview at least 20 local experts each year. The survey used is arranged in sections which address berries, weather, fish, birds, caribou and other mammals. The survey form is available here: 




The database is hosted by Data Path Systems, a Yukon based data management company. The database contains over 20 years-worth of observations. There is already enough evidence within to look at trends and to overlay the data with other datasets, such as Environment Canada’s climate data. It is possible that the database can be used to investigate cumulative impacts in the study area. 


Participating communities own and have access to the database. Researchers and other entities seeking access to the data submit an application to the relevant communities through the Renewable Resource Council or Hunter/Trapper Committee. These councils determine relevance to their community and interests and either approve or deny the applications. ABEKS requests access to all publications that reference the ABEKS database. 



ABEKS publications include analyses that we have undertaken as part of the processes of program evaluation and adaptive management, as well as publications and research done by people or groups that have gained access to the database through application to RRCs or HTCs. All publications can be found here: 


ABEKS has developed a list of scientific indicators that can be used to monitor ecological change. We update the list every few years as participants identify which ones are important to what is being observed in their communities. The indicators may be found here: 

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