Nunavik Research Centre summer student Christina Uquutaq Lock competed alongside university students last December and came out on top, winning the first ever Inuit Poster Award at the international ArcticNet annual scientific meeting in Toronto. There were 450 scientific posters entered.
Now 16 years old and in Grade 10 in Kuujjuaq, Christina has worked as an NRC summer student for the past two years. In 2022 she went to the Marralik-Ungunniavik camp, an initiative led by the Nunavik Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Association. She decided to share her learnings through the winning poster that she worked on with James May and Mikhaela Neelin.
The camp, according to the abstract that accompanies the poster, is a cultural and historic beluga hunting spot that was closed over 40 years ago by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Officials believed that the belugas inhabiting this area were a unique population and were endangered, but many Inuit reported that this beluga population is not a resident population and that closing the hunt is having detrimental impacts on Inuit well-being. A study was conducted, and the project is meant to illustrate the importance for Inuit to monitor their wildlife and environment to be able to collect data to advocate for change.
Christina says she became interested in the summer project after her father told her about it and really enjoyed the work sampling beluga for the NRC. She was then thrilled to be invited to attend ArcticNet and even more excited to learn her poster won an award.
“Going to Arcticnet was an amazing and interesting experience,” she says, “I couldn’t believe that I won! It was very exciting and gave me a heart-warming feeling. I was overwhelmed with excitement.”
The NRC’s Géraldine Gouin describes Christina as a dedicated, hardworking, and very autonomous student. “She has done way more than I expected of her. She did the tasks I asked of her quickly and flawlessly, honestly an amazing student. We were lucky to have her at the NRC! The award she got at Arcticnet 2022 is proof of this,” she says. “While she is a high school student, she was able to compete with university students. Quite an achievement!”
Christina received a cash award which she is putting away for future studies and an ulu. She says she plans to continue in the sciences in some way in university but isn’t yet sure what path she will take.