Reindriftsforvaltningen Nordforsk

Prospects and need for Nordic cooperation in reindeer research

A small description on why it was important to gather people and resources under one network devoted to reindeer research
From the current status of research and research training description one can summarize the following points:

• Reindeer health is of major importance given that these animal constitute a valuable economic/husbandry and ecological asset
• Pathogens and other conditions affecting reindeer health have been identified in different Nordic countries and their impact for reindeer health demonstrated
• Most work on reindeer health has been carried out by individual research groups answering national problems/questions
• No long term cooperation on scientific research on reindeer health is in place in the Nordic countries
• There is little or no training/education for professionals working with reindeer or graduate students developing their projects on reindeer health related topics.
The existence of isolated research groups working on reindeer health related topics, present several shortcomings:
• studies are done at national level many times ignoring the impact of similar diseases/problems in other countries. Collaboration could help to enhance and generalize results.
• studies are usually done on small populations as sampling is usually laborious and in remote locations. This could be overcome by international cooperation:
• studies are usually focused on answering a specific local problem but don’t contribute to management policy changes/adaptations on a broader international level;
• studies, because of being very localized provide little additional value to global studies on climate or human driven changes in the Arctic and their impacts for reindeer on a general perspective.
• studies are usually carried out by graduate students which have little or no previous experience with reindeer related topics. The lack of an organized teaching network makes graduate education difficult and time consuming.

Finally the lack of organized reindeer health research in the Nordic countries makes it difficult for scientific agents/institutions to provide counseling for political/management authorities of the Arctic, for the reindeer industry or even for the protection of cultural and traditional values of arctic and sub-arctic indigenous populations.

It becomes clear that the only way to overcome this and other shortcommings is to establish a long term cooperative strategy where research and teaching in reindeer health can be understood as both a global Nordic need and a global Nordic achievement. RANFIGER HEALTH: scientific and educational cooperation in reindeer health in the Nordic countries is therefore presented as the answer to these described shortcomings on reindeer health research in northern Europe. The network will fulfill four major goals:

1) establish a lasting and global Nordic network of researchers working on reindeer health topics; 2) identify emerging research needs for the Nordic area and provide information and counseling for third partners;
3) promote a global teaching system for graduate students involved in reindeer health research;
4) increase the participation of the Nordic countries in circum-arctic research, namely by increasing cooperation with CARMA.

The creation of a Nordic network on reindeer health would therefore also complement the efforts of CARMA and ACIA (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment) regarding the promotion and protection of this species in a rapidly changing Arctic.

Educating our graduate students will perhaps be one of the areas where the network can play a very important role. As different research groups work on different topics, creating an educational system (workshops, seminars etc...) where students have the chance to interact with different aspects of reindeer health and research groups, will definitely increase global perspective on reindeer health and help model the future of science and research within this field.

While a lot of attention has been placed recently on ecological studies and the impact of climate changes in Arctic ecosystems, health has often been neglected coming into the equation when disease appears. Prevention and management on health related topics can only be achieved by an active surveillance and research. RANGIFER HEALTH aims at fulfilling this gap on the Nordic global research approach on the arctic, bringing health into the equation!

RANGIFER HEALTH will therefore in summary serve not only as an engine for new and multi-disciplinary scientific projects, but it will also help educate future researchers in this field and provide government/management authorities and third partners (NGOs, industries, etc…) with relevant information and concealing.
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