Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Using Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, Traditional Knowledge, To Guide The Development Of Hypotheses On Narwhal Tusk Function (Award# 0756708)

PI: Nweeia, Martin T (
Phone: (860) 364.0800 
Institute/Department: Case Western Reserve University, School of Dental Medicine 
IPY Project? NO
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Biology\Anatomy | Biology\Dental Materials Science | Biology\Histology | Biology\Hydrology | Biology\Marine Mammal Biology | Biology\Physiology | Oceanography\Fluid Dynamics | Social and Human Sciences\Acoustics | Social and Human Sciences\Integrative and Organismal Systems | Social and Human Sciences\Morphology | Social and Human Sciences\Traditional Knowledge Systems |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
The narwhal remains one of the least understood marine mammals on the planet, and its extraordinary tooth, a topic of conjecture. Mythical legends of the unicorn are only surpassed by the reality of an elusive whale that has challenged scientific minds for the past 500 years. The left canine of the male narwhal defies many principals and properties of tooth expression, from its architecture to its unique spiraled form. Why this tusk has become the exception to many of the evolutionary rules of teeth has been the subject of the PI’s ten-year investigation. The project combines an interdisciplinary team of scientists and Inuit elders and hunters to better understand the anatomy, behavior, and neurophysiology of nature's most perplexing tooth. Results from this study will uncover the knowledge recorded in the interviews of 55 hunters and elders from over 12 communities in the High Arctic regions of Northeastern Baffin Island and Northwestern Greenland. These interviews will be translated and then integrated with scientific findings to bring a more complete understanding of the narwhal. By analyzing aspects of narwhal migration, distribution, behavior, anatomy, diet, and affects of global warming trends that are described in this collection of interviews, a more complete picture of this whale and its extraordinary tusk will be uncovered. The PI’s research keeps children of all ages curious. Three television documentaries, 15 radio programs, and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and Internet sites demonstrate the public appetite for knowledge about the narwhal, its tusk, and this ongoing study. Findings from this work will be published in a book that includes the findings of the Traditional Knowledge and the ongoing scientific studies. Original art and graphic plates describing narwhal anatomy, physiology, migration, and behavior will also be completed and incorporated in to the book, as well as museum exhibits

Logistics Summary:
For this study of the narwhal, researchers will travel to Arctic Bay, Baffin Island, Canada, and will work with community elders to document and preserve traditional ecological knowledge of the narwhal, while also collecting information to better understand the anatomy, behavior, and neurophysiology of the narwhal, in particular, its tusk. This work will complement interviews of Inuit elders and hunters completed in six other High Arctic communities of Nunavut and Northwestern Greenland. Field work will occur in Canada in August, 2009. A team of two will spend about two weeks in Arctic Bay conducting additional Inuit interviews and collecting information on tusk sensitivity. Over the next three years, the team will continue to develop a book presenting Inuit traditional knowledge, anatomical plates, and illustrations, and work on developing a museum exhibit to highlight scientific discoveries made through an interdisciplinary approach of combining results from the scientific method and Inuit Traditional Knowledge.

The PI will arrange/pay for all logistics related to this project.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2009Canada - Arctic Bay, Baffin Island08 / 06 / 2009 08 / 23 / 20092

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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "0756708", IPY = "ALL" 
     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1