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Narwhal studies

Dr. Nweeia's research log includes milestone markers

April 07, 2014

• On May 27, 2002, a preliminary field study was conducted to establish a methodology for completing work that would follow in subsequent years. A research description was prepared and translated into Inuktitut for presentation to the Pond Inlet Hamlet Council for approval.

• June 1, 2003. We have traveled six hours on ice by snowmobile pulling an ice sledge and followed a lead for several miles in both directions trying to find a place to cross. Finally, we arrived to a section stretching nearly 30 feet. David takes out a pole with a hook some 20 feet long and hooks a free moving piece of ice, pushing it to the far edge of the lead, grabs other pieces and eventually builds an ice bridge. The sledge unhooked, he runs the snowmobile full throttle across the bridge and makes it to the other side. Pieces of the bridge have broken, preventing any further crossing. Without conversation and despite any experience other than watching him, I pick up the pole and build a new ice bridge. He tells me to throw the rope of the sledge to the other side, attaches the rope to the snowmobile and instructs me to get on top of the sledge and hold on. The ice sledge is successfully brought to the other side and again the ice bridge breaks. We continue on.

• At the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in 2005, Dr. Nweeia and colleagues report that the narwhal tusk is a sensory organ capable of delivering information about its icy ocean environment.

• Elder observations of narwhal anatomy and behavior are valuable for my research on the tusk of the narwhal and complement the scientific studies. I would like to continue my work asking questions of elders about the narwhal as I have a deep respect for their insights and find that many of their observations are more accurate than published scientific accounts.

• The Anatomical Record, April 2014, reports the research showing how the narwhal may use its tusk to understand its environment and mapping the sensory pathway from tooth to brain.

See related story here.