Overview of Research

My main research focus is the interaction of Indigenous people with their natural environment, often focusing on natural resource use.  My theoretical frameworks typically involve common property theory, complex adaptive systems theory, and complexity to look at Social-Ecological Systems.
Projects that I am currently involved in and have funding to accept graduate students are:

  • Women and Subsistence: Social and Environmental Change. (Principle Investigator (2009-2013)
  • Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (Principle Investigator: Dr. Chris Southcott, Lakehead Sociology)

I am also interested in students who wish to pursue research local to Thunder Bay or Northwestern Ontario, but I am unable to provide funding at this time (however, I am happy to work with potential students to secure funding).  Project topics might include environmental governance, conservation, and First Nations environmental issues.  For example, I am working with Neebing Municipality (south of Thunder Bay) on conservation and land use planning issues relating to peregrine falcons.


Current Projects

1. Women and Subsistence: Social and Environmental Change

This project is field-based with research sites in Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River, Nunavut.  One undergraduate student (Jennifer Duncan) and one Master’s student (Jocelyn Inksetter) are involved in the project currently.  Jennifer’s project “Mapping with Eastern Arctic Inuit” was completed in 2010. Jocelyn’s Master’s thesis examines women in Qikiqtarjuaq and their time allocation to and general involvement in subsistence activities.  The project runs through 2013, so there are still opportunities for students to participate and develop projects within the general sphere of the objectives.


  • To document Inuit women’s activities and time allocation related to harvesting and processing country foods and materials (cleaning hides, fishing, berry picking etc.) 
  • To examine the social networks of sharing for the distribution of goods and services with a focus on women’s roles in the extended family and other networks and changes in the system due to the development of the market economy.
  • To ascertain views on changes in subsistence over the past 50 years and the main threats to the current systems (specifically evaluating climatic change and social change).
  • To use information from 1, 2 and 3 as a baseline for future studies.

Research Project Group

2.  Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic

This new project is led by Dr. Chris Southcott in Sociology at Lakehead.  My part of the project is not yet fully designed. There are several opportunities for students, for example, to explore the impact of resource development on Inuit communities (such as the Mary River Iron Mine on northern Baffin Island), and to examine development of social programming, training and support in Inuit communities.  Other projects might also be developed in consultation with me.  Students at either the Master’s or Ph.D. level are encouraged to contact me for more information.


Previous Projects

My Ph.D. work examined the interaction of Inuit Traditional Knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit) and polar bear management at various governance levels from the local to the International. Papers resulting from the project include:

  • Dowsley, M. 2010.  The value of a polar bear: Evaluating the role of a multiple use resource in the Nunavut mixed economy.  Arctic Anthropology 47(1):39-56.
  • Schmidt, J.J. and M. Dowsley.  2010. Hunting with polar bears: problems with the passive properties of the commons.  Human Ecology 38(3):377-387. URL:
  • Dowsley, M. 2009. Inuit organized polar bear sport hunting in Nunavut Territory, Canada.  Journal of Ecotourism 8 (2): 161-175.
  • Dowsley, M. 2009.  Community clusters in wildlife and environmental management: Using TEK and community involvement to improve management in an era of rapid environmental change.  Polar Research 28: 43-59.
  • Dowsley, M. and G. Wenzel. 2008.  “The time of the most polar bears”: a co-management conflict in Nunavut. Arctic 61(2): 77-89.
  • Dowsley, M.  2008. Developing multi-level institutions from top-down ancestors.  International Journal of the Commons 1(2): 55-74. URL:  
  • Dowsley, M.  2007. Inuit Perspectives on Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) and Climate Change in Baffin Bay, Nunavut, Canada. Research and Practice 2(2): 53-74. URL:  

I am completing a project in Ontario with Dr. Harvey Lemelin (LU Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism) which examines Cree interactions with polar bears and polar bear management.  Field work is finished for this project.

  • Lemelin, R. H., M. Dowsley, B. Walmark, F. Siebel, L. Bird, G. Hunter, T. Myles, M. Mack, M. Gull, M. Kakekaspan, the Washaho Cree Nation at Fort Severn, and the Weenusk Cree Nation at Peawanuck. 2010.  Wabusk of the Omushkegouk: Cree-polar bear (Ursus maritimus) interactions in northern Ontario.  Human Ecology 38:803-815.

Other papers forthcoming…

I am interested in talking to potential students about a wide range of topics within these general research areas.

Arctic Prints