About the Indigenous Sentinels Network

Overview: A Tool for Community-Driven and Indigenous-Led Monitoring

The Indigenous Sentinels Network is a tool for recording and communicating significant environmental and ecological events in order to empower remote communities dealing with the effects of climate change (i.e., environmental declines, economic disruptions for both subsistence and cash economies, loss of cultural knowledge, etc.). ISN uses the approach of an internet-based system (i.e., online database, smartphone or template apps, etc.) that enables communities across Alaska and beyond to implement rigorous monitoring programs while utilizing ISN’s well-refined environmental database. 

The ISN network is rooted in both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western scientific methods. We recognize the diversity of qualitative and quantitative data that are valuable in decision-making processes (conservation, policy, management), especially in a rapidly changing environment. Our goal is to provide remote, indigenous communities with tools, training, networking and convening, coordination, and capacity for ecological, environmental, and climate monitoring.

 

The strength of ISN is that it is a tribally-owned program designed for and used by Indigenous participants, who are inherently diverse and historically underrepresented in technology-based initiatives. Often, Alaskan communities are isolated and limited in technology (e.g., internet speed and cell service), yet they have a collective body of diverse knowledge and data that has been amassed over generations. 

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ISN Overview

History
The first generation of the Indigenous Sentinels Network - then called the Bering Watch/Island Sentinel Program - began in the early 2000s when the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (ACSPI) hired sentinels to monitor wildlife species and environmental conditions in the Pribilof Islands. The monitoring program has been refined over the last 20 years by Tribal employees, contractors, and local volunteers. The ACSPI Ecosystem Conservation Office principally led this effort. 

The BeringWatch Sentinel Program has evolved with technology over the past 20 years. The program started out by collecting data with waterproof data books, which evolved into using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for field data collection. Data are now collected through iOS and Android applications or ‘Apps’. Information is stored in an online database to facilitate collaboration and data sharing amongst Tribes, communities, and partners. The insights that have been pulled from this program have provided significant benefits to the people of St. Paul Island and other Indigenous communities throughout Alaska.

About  TGSPI
The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government (TGSPI) is a governmental venue through which the Unangan of St. Paul Island can fulfill their intrinsic rights and responsibilities, and support, recollect, practice, and pass on their culture. TGSPI promotes, maintains, and protects cultural practices, awareness, preservation, self-governance, and self-determination for the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. The Tribal Government does much in its power to provide for the well-being of the community; continuously thinking outside the box in a challenging strive towards developing and keeping expertise and services that contribute to social and economic security and presence on the home island.

Expanding ISN 

One of the goals of ISN is to provide remote, indigenous communities with tools, training, networking and convening, coordination, and capacity for ecological, environmental, and climate monitoring. By employing skilled and experienced staff we have created a broad tribal, agency, and academic environmental network, including a network of interested third-party customers of data.  The Northern Latitudes Partnerships and other key partners are working to help expand this program throughout Alaska and Western Canada, which can complement and support ongoing monitoring efforts, such as the Indigenous Guardians program.

Through the creation and large-scale implementation of the ISN technology platform among tribal and First Nations governments, we hope to empower communities to capture and align a network of data that demonstrates the dramatic changes being observed in northern communities.

In the process, we aim to:

1. Fill critical data gaps, provide baseline assessments, support proactive planning and management, and enhance climate adaptation strategies.

2. Bring jobs to rural, indigenous communities that support self-determination, land and resource stewardship, and community resilience.

3. Expand partnerships across the border and among communities and resource/land managers.

4. Leverage public and private funds, reduce duplication and build collaboration on shared goals.

5. Improve management and policy decision-making by providing on-ramps for different types of data (local, traditional) into processes to improve governance and management

6.  Ensure Tribes retain data sovereignty as owners and experts over their data.

ISN Components:

1. ISN Database: Online interface, all data archived and password protected, calendar, quality control, and assurance module, query tools, report generator (exports to Excel), user friendly, data property and intellectual property rights remain with each participating community.

2. Suite of Mobile Data Collection Apps: Full Sentinel, CitizenSentinel, Coastal Erosion, Seaduck and Gull, Salmon Harvest, Skipper Science, Fish Map App, and other custom apps/modules as needed; iOS and Android capable, all apps available for download free in Apple Store and Google Play (users must have an active Sentinel account to use the apps).

3. Communication Tools: Webpage, Facebook page, interactions with other networks.

4. Training Materials: ISN handbook, Quality control protocols, Reference materials, and guides developed in collaboration with relevant federal and state agencies, partners, and resources managers.

Logging an Observation:

Analysis and Reporting:

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Meet The Team

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Lauren Divine

Director of ECO at Aleut Community of St. Paul Island

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Bruce Robson

ISN Technical Director at Community and Ecology Resources, LLC.

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Hannah-Marie Garcia

ISN Coordinator at Aleut Community of St. Paul Island

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Aaron Poe

Network Program Officer, Northern Latitudes Partnerships, Alaska Conservation Foundation

Partners, Funders, and Collaborators

Qaĝalaq ~ Thank you!  
to previous and present collaborators: 

  • St. Paul and St. George Islands

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience

  • Environmental Protection Agency GAP program

  • National Parks Service Beringia Program 

  • NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

  • North Pacific Research Board

  • Pribilof School District

  • USFWS Tribal Wildlife Grant Program

  • National Resource Conservation Service USDA