Baffin Bay Region Narwhal Research

Photo collageThe Narwhal Tusk Research project integrates traditional knowledge and interdisciplinary science to study the narwhal's unique tusk. Photo credits: Glenn Williams and Joseph Meehan

High Arctic communities in Nunavut, Canada, and in Northwestern Greenland have long been familiar with narwhals. For centuries, the narwhal has been part of the Inuit diet, providing food and nourishment. Although the Arctic is home to many unique animals, it is the narwhal's long, protruding tusk that has inspired legends and stumped scientists for centuries.

Interview videos: Part 1 - Part 2

Inuit hunters and elders discuss narwhal behavior, accompanied by traditional drumming and singing.

Scientists have partnered with various Arctic communities to understand the purpose of the narwhal’s tusk. By combining scientific research with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or Inuit knowledge, researchers hope to learn why narwhals have tusks and how they use them. It was long thought that narwhal tusks determined rank or dominance, or were perhaps used in fighting, but this collaborative approach reveals that there is much more to the narwhal tusk than scientists ever imagined.

The Narwhal Tusk Research Project is one of the collaborative data sharing projects facilitated by ELOKA, and is representative of the types of communities and projects ELOKA expects to serve. They include international projects, projects with diverse data and data needs, and data with varying accessibility. These projects are similar in that they all involve working with Arctic communities and residents in order to collect local observations and knowledge (LTK or community-based monitoring). The projects differ in the regions and cultures they represent, the data with which they are working, and their interests, needs, and goals for their data.

Baffin Bay Region Narwhal Community Data will be available soon.

Several narwhals surface through an ice lead to breathe. Photo credit: Glenn Williams