Shari Fox Gearheard (Canada) - TEK Director, Team Member
Click here if you would like to send Shari a note of encouragement or would just like to say 'Hello' while she is on the expedition.
Shari is a postdoctoral research fellow in the NOAA Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change, hosted by Harvard University. Shari, who now lives in Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada has been working with Inuit elders and hunters in Nunavut, Canada to document their observations and experiences of recent climate and environmental change since 1995. She is the co-lead author, with Henry Huntington, of the Indigenous Perspectives chapter of the ACIA (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment), an international project organized under the auspices of the Arctic Council, released in fall 2004. With a MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo, she completed her PhD in Geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Shari was born and raised in Ontario, Canada.
Interview With Shari Fox Gearheard
What is your favorite food?
I love food, all food, cooking and eating foodÖ. Sushi is a real favorite. Salmon sashimi. Iím also a big fan of pizza.
What kind of music do you like?
Hmm, again Iím kind of an all-Ďrounder with music. If it makes me want to dance, itís good music. My husband and I are big salsa dancers; we met salsa dancing. So Latin music, especially salsa, is a favorite. I like to collect music from the places I travel. One of my recent favorites is a collection of yoiks from Finland. There is a great artist there, Wimme Saari, who mixes traditional yoiks with techno. Now thereís some good dancing . . .
Hobbies or interests.
I love to travel and I love being outside. I like hiking, skiing and camping. I also have a real interest in languages and learning new languages. Right now I am working on learning Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit.
Favorite classes or subjects in school?
In school my favorite subjects were Geography, History, French and Physics. I also really liked wood shop.
Favorite childhood memories?
I am very close with my maternal grandparents. I have fond memories of being at their house as a child, playing cards with my grandmother and tinkering in the garage with my grandfather. I also remember the backyard at our first house, where we lived until I was about 7. I probably remember it as being much larger than it really was, but I remember playing in mountains of leaves back there in the fall and my father making a huge ice rink there every winter. All the neighborhood kids would come to skate at our house.
How did you choose your current career path? Who or what inspired you?
As a kid, I was fascinated by National Geographic specials on TV and was especially drawn in by anything about the Arctic. I always dreamed of going there. I was so lucky to have that opportunity when I went to university. And now I live in the Arctic! So that dream came true. My other early inspiration came from Jacques Cousteau. His adventures were fascinating to me as a kid. I thought he was so interesting and led such an exciting life, doing good things and teaching people about the world, how it works, and how we need to take care of it. Iím still inspired by Jacques today. Those childhood influences pushed me to study the Arctic and the environment, climate in particular. The first time I visited an Inuit community, about ten years ago, I became interested in climate from the Inuit perspective and have been learning about their knowledge of climate and the environment ever since. The Inuit I work with continually inspire me to learn more about the Arctic and life in this amazing place.
What advice do you have for the students of today?
Be yourself and follow your heart, even though itís hard sometimes. Never be afraid to ask questions. Be kind to people and always be open to different things.
Why is it important to study the Arctic
The Arctic is one of the most unique places on Earth. We often think about it as a cold, snowy, icy place, but it is also home to some amazing people, animals and ecosystems. The Arctic is connected in special ways to the rest of the planet. When the Arctic changes, the rest of the planet can change. Right now, many regions of the Arctic are experiencing climate and environmental changes. It is important to understand the impacts of these changes, if and how Arctic life is vulnerable to these changes, and what can be done to respond and adapt. It is important that we work with local people as we study the Arctic because they are often the best observers of the land, ocean, animals and sea ice. They have detailed knowledge of many processes and patterns in the environment and many elders are aware of variability and change over time. They are also the best teachers of their culture, and understanding the important connections between environment and society.
How and when did you first become a dog musher?
Dog mushing is new for me. I live in a small community on Baffin Island called Clyde River where there are about 13 dog teams. Iíve been lucky to learn about dog sledding from some of the mushers in my community. But Iím just a beginner, so Iím fortunate and happy to be learning from the other Polar Husky team members!
Responsibilities on the trail
I am working with Henry Huntington and the other team members to document and understand local observations of climate and environmental change from people in communities along our route. My research is focused on traditional knowledge of environmental change, so I am happy to be applying that research to the Go North! project. I am also learning about how our approach of dogsledding into communities and conducting short visits with local experts can contribute to different methodologies for community research and community assessments of environmental change. Since Iím a new musher, my responsibilities on the trail will probably also include a lot of dishwashing and sled packing until I can learn more about the art of mushing dogs!