RESEARCHER OF THE MONTH

Meet Rachael Cadman, OFI Module I PhD Student

by 

Rachael Cadman

My research looks at how knowledge systems affect the design and implementation of fisheries governance. I work in Nunatsiavut, northern Labrador, where I am researching how Labrador Inuit Knowledge is valued and used in fisheries governance in the Land Claim Area.

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View of Nain, NL; October 2019; ©Rachael Cadman

I am an Interdisciplinary PhD student at Dalhousie University. I completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of King's College and a Master of Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie University. I currently work alongside the Torngat Plants, Wildlife and Fisheries Secretariat and other partners to map out a vision of the future of fisheries in Nunatsiavut and create holistic fisheries governance solutions that are resilient against environmental and societal change. I enjoy the opportunity to do research in a space that is more iterative and collaborative than traditional research projects.

What is your research about? What are you currently working on?

My research looks at how knowledge systems affect the design and implementation of fisheries governance. I work in Nunatsiavut, northern Labrador, where I am researching how Labrador Inuit Knowledge is valued and used in fisheries governance in the Land Claim Area. Specifically, I am interested in whether the co-management system has been successful at incorporating Inuit Knowledge in order to strengthen the self-determination of Labrador Inuit in their adjacent fisheries.

What drew you to explore this topic originally?

The Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat originally identified a need for a long-term plan for fisheries in Nunatsiavut that incorporates the priorities and values of land claim beneficiaries. They teamed up with OFI to create a project that could fill that need, and I joined the team in order to help execute the plan. My involvement in the research stems from an interest in how information is valued and prioritized in governance. My master’s thesis focused on increasing the uptake of relevant information in order to ensure that environmental policy is grounded in science. In governance, and in scientific research, we have a bias towards Western, positivist scientific approaches, which erases other knowledge systems, ignores significant evidence about the natural and human worlds, and reinforces colonialism. This led me to a fundamental question: as our political system evolves to place more emphasis on “evidence-based decision-making”, whose knowledge matters? I want to help create just decision-making processes that provide a more equitable and inclusive form of governance.

What is the most interesting aspect of your research? Share something you have discovered through your research so far?

I can't say that I've "discovered" anything, but I have been taught so many things by friends, mentors and colleagues over the last 2 years! Last fall I got to spend a few months in Nain, Nunatsiavut to help out with an ongoing research project. I was lucky to be able to listen to dozens of interviews with people speaking about their harvesting and time on the land. I learned a lot of what a friend and colleague Megan Dicker called "Inuk facts", like the best time of year to pick berries, or what it means when a porpoise is jumping in the bay. Maybe the most important thing I have learned (and keep learning!) concerns my role as a white academic researcher working with an Indigenous community - when it is appropriate to use my platform to amplify Indigenous voices, and when I need to step aside and make space for Indigenous people to speak for themselves.

How does your research address present day fisheries issues in Newfoundland and Labrador and elsewhere? How does it help inform governance responses for coastal communities in the province in the context of change?

My research is focused on modelling strategies for inclusive governance for the Nunatsiavut fishing industry. Fisheries are an interesting space because they sit at a crossroads of so many aspects of Labrador Inuit life - they are a vital source of nutrition, cultural preservation and livelihoods. Since the biosphere will continue to change over the coming decades due to climate change, it is especially important that fisheries governance is centred around Labrador Inuit voices to ensure that the goals of the commercial fisheries are explicitly connected to local, culturally appropriate, outcomes.

What is the one thing you would like the general public to know about your research?

I am a part of several different research projects, all led by or in partnership with Indigenous organizations in Nunatsiavut. The projects are based on needs identified by communities, or gaps that need to be filled for decision-making. It has been a fun and stimulating challenge to find ways of designing research programs that can both achieve the practical objectives set by my research partners and also satisfy my academic interests. My work is definitely better for these partnerships. In fact, none of my current research would exist without support from key community organizations. I think the big takeaway for me has been how much richer and more applicable research can be when you prioritize community needs.

What are the next steps and what do you want to achieve with your research?

I've been doing desktop research for the last few months and I'm hoping to start data collection in the Spring. A big part of my research will be working with Indigenous fishers and other stakeholders in Nunatsiavut's fishing industry to develop a long term vision for the future of fisheries in the land claim area. I hope that the project will create lasting dialogue between the groups and will improve their capacity for influencing decision-making in the region.

What do you like doing when you are not working on research?

This has been a weird year for leisure activities! I spent the summer creating a big vegetable garden in my backyard. I also like to go hiking with my dog and my partner whenever I can.

Learn more:

Contact Rachael Cadman at R.Cadman@dal.ca and on social media @rachael_cadman.

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Written by

Rachael Cadman

Rachael Cadman is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. student at Dalhousie University. She completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of King's College and a Master of Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie University. Rachael currently works alongside the Torngat Plants, Wildlife and Fisheries Secretariat and other partners to map out a vision of the future of fisheries in Nunatsiavut and create holistic fisheries governance solutions that are resilient against environmental and societal change. She enjoys the opportunity to do research in a space that is more iterative and collaborative than traditional research projects.