Youth involvement in Tracking Change is key to our understanding and building capacity for stewardship of the Mackenzie River Basin. Poster winners from the 2018 Youth Knowledge Fair (third semi-annual) were invited to participate in side events at the UN Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland and present at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France from November 28 – December 7, 2018.


Through these activities, students had the opportunity to share their ideas, network with each other, work with scientists, and have a bit of fun while learning about traditional knowledge and climate change. After all, youth are our future leaders and their ideas matter!
Supporting existing climate research in the Mackenzie

Researchers leading Tracking Change projects across the Mackenzie River Basin in 2016 and 2017 highlighted many different kinds of observations and experiences of change in water, fish and fishing livelihoods that point to problems of climate change. This youth project enabled young people to connect with their elders to learn about these changes and the impacts on their communities.


Furthermore, this project engaged youth in the definition of research priorities in the Mackenzie and key issues for study. It is key to hear from youth about their perspectives of climate change!

Sharing local knowledge with an international audience

Key to the Tracking Change project were legitimate venues for youth from the Mackenzie River Basin to share their traditional ecological knowledge of climate change with policy makers, researchers, and delegates, including Indigenous climate delegates.


After months of preparation in their home communities, where the youth consulted with elders, gathered photos and interviews from community members, and synthesized their learning into posters, youth traveled to Paris, France and Katowice, Poland, to present to:

  • UNESCO representatives at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, including Canada’s Permanent Ambassador to UNESCO, Elaine Ayotte;
  • Young climate researchers and advocates at the UN Conference of Youth (COY 14);
  • International Indigenous delegates to COP24 at the UNC Indigenous Peoples Caucus;
  • Representatives from Environment and Climate Change Canada, including Larry Hegan, Lead Negotiator for the UNFCCC Indigenous Peoples Platform; and
  • Journalists from the Finnish journal, Hyvän sään aikana.

Richard Stewart discussing climate change in Fort McPherson with Elaine Ayotte (Canada’s Permanent Ambassador to UNESC) at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

Ryan Schaefer presenting his research to UNESCO representatives at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
``In the beginning I had no clue what UNESCO meant or how big of a deal this opportunity was for me. I learned that I was at the world’s headquarters of UNESCO and was speaking in front of World Leaders on Climate Change from around the World. These people listened to what I had to say about the impact of climate change on my home community.``
- Ryan Schaefer

Youth responding to audience questions after their presentations on climate change affects in their communities. Conference of Youth14 in Katowice, Poland.
Learning abroad

Building on the learning that began in their communities as they developed their posters, students participated in a variety of activities that supported their learning about climate change and alternative energy. Students:

  • Participated in team-building and presentation-development workshops in preparation for their trip;
  • Spoke with Indigenous elders and young Indigenous climate leaders;
  • Engaged in a participatory workshop on alternative energy and select sessions at the UN Conference of Youth;
  • Toured the Wieliczka Salt Mine and Silesian Ethnographic Museum to learn about the histories of land, culture, and mining in Poland;
  • Shared a meal with a Polish family in Katowice; and
  • Enjoyed tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower and Katowice Christmas Market – just for fun!

Group photo at the start of Day 1 at Conference of Youth14, Katowice, Poland.

Students and chaperones enjoying a traditional Polish Christmas Market in Katowice, Poland.

Portia Morin with Elder Bruce Kendall Goldtooth at the Indigenosu Caucus with Representatives to COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
Meeting key objectives

Building on the existing work within the larger Tracking Change project, the objectives of the COP24 project were to:

  • Create opportunities for high school youth (Grade 10-11) to connect with each other in Poland for ten days of educational activities including knowledge sharing activities, educational workshops, keynote presentations from inspirational youth and Indigenous leaders, and local field trips;
  • Support students to learn about their own histories, ecosystems and communities from elders and their communities and through their schools through submissions of poster projects;
  • Encourage the development of research and written/oral communication skills by through a poster project related to climate change the health of water, fish, fishing livelihoods and well-being of communities in the Mackenzie River Basin; and
  • Create opportunities for youth and schools to network with other youth globally on issues of climate change.

Youth representatives from the Yukon, Northwester Territories, and Northern Alberta found common ground and built lifelong friendships.
Connecting across the Basin

This year’s participants came from a variety of communities across the Mackenzie River Basin.

Gavin Winter-Sinnott

I live in the small Yukon community of Mayo, which has around 450 people. I love hunting and fishing and spending time with people of all ages. In Europe I am looking forward to trying new kinds of food and meeting people from all over the world.
My poster is on how the Mayo Lake water levels were affected by the winter 2018 drought. Not being able to access the Lake by boat affects my family’s ability to hunt and fish in the warm months. Also, I am concerned that lower water levels will affect fish habitat.

Kaidynce Storr

I live in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, but I grew up in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. I enjoy playing sports like volleyball and badminton. I am looking forward to sharing information about my community and seeing new things.
My poster focuses on erosion, rising sea levels, warming weather, and how these affect the people and the land in Tuktoyaktuk.

Portia Morin

I am a grade 10 student, competitive swimmer, student athlete and part-time model. My hobbies include sports such as swimming, lacrosse and exercise, music, socializing in activities or volunteer work, painting, reading and gardening.
My family moved to Edmonton in pursuit of educational goals, but my home community is in northwestern Alberta on a Dene Tha First Nation reserve. As a Dene/Cree descendant, I am learning teachings from Dene/Cree Elders who continue to encourage us to do our best at everything. What I am looking forward to in Europe are to meet youth who share similar ideas about climate change.

Ryan Schaefer

I live in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (Canada). I like to go out on the land and hunt, fish, snowmobile whenever I can. I also enjoy playing sports, everything from hockey to volleyball. I am looking forward to meeting new people in Europe and learning about how climate change is affecting other communities. I also like to explore different cultures and food!
My poster is on the effects of climate change on the Slave River. This topic personally impacts me and my family. We fish and live on the Slave River. I also want to create awareness about the health of the river and help to preserve it for future generations.

Richard Stewart

I’m from Ft. McPherson, but the traditional name is Tetlit Zheh, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. My community is small but strong and thriving community with a population about eight hundred. In general, the people in my community live off hunting, fishing, and trapping. The rest are employed in local government, educational or in one of the two stores. My poster is on the effects of climate change on Peel Plateau.
What I am looking to forward to seeing in Europe is the Eiffel Tower, since it is really a world icon.

Kelsey Lockhart

I am a grade 8 student at the Lutsel K’e Dene School in Lutsel K’e, Northwest Territories, Canada. I love to read and learn about her Denesoline history over a campfire. I can’t wait to meet all the different peoples from around the world and see the Eiffel Tower!
My poster is called: “How healthy are our fish?” I really like to go fishing and cook fish on the fire. I help my Dad harvest the fish from our gill net. I want to know if the fish are still healthy because there is a abandoned mine site and new mines in our traditional territory, and I’m worried it is affecting the health of our fish.

Doctoral Student in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta

Carrie Karsgaard

I am excited to have coordinated the Tracking Change Youth Knowledge Fair and trip to COP24, both in 2018. I am a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta – but I also have a history of working as a high school teacher and in post-secondary institutions in international and intercultural education.
I absolutely love working with young people, and it is an honour to listen to and learn from these youth and their community members. They have been schooling me on life – including ecological and cultural components – in the MacKenzie River Basin and in their specific communities.

M.A. Candidate in Geography at the Memorial University of Newfoundland

Laura Gaitan

Supervisor:  Arn Keeling/Brenda Parlee

Research Topic:  Northern Exposures: Science, Indigenous people, and Northern Contaminants

I am currently a master’s candidate in geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland under the research project “Northern Exposures: Science, Indigenous people, and Northern Contaminants.”. I conducted my fieldwork in Northern Canada mapping the traditional territory of a community. I also have studied in the United States, Finland and in France. In addition, I worked with a local NGO in Ecuador and volunteered in an environmental project in Italy. Currently, I am doing a Place Names project with Treaty 8 Alberta. I adopted a husky pup from northern Saskatchewan, and I like to spend my free time playing with her in the outdoors.