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Ashlee Cunsolo Willox

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Cape Breton UniversityEnvironmental Research Location Sydney Canada Discipline(s): Geography, Environmental Studies Research Interests: Indigenous, Health, Environmental Philosophy, Digital Humanities, International Development, Ethics Languages: English Website:

I am a Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities and an Assistant Professor in Nursing and Indigenous Studies at Cape Breton University. As a community-engaged and community-based social sciences and health researcher, my interdisciplinary research works at the intersection of place, culture, health, and environment. I have a particular interest in the social, environmental and cultural determinants of health, Indigenous health, participatory digital and decolonizing methods, environmental ethics, and social and health justice.

Since 2009,  I have been working in partnership with Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut, Labrador to integrate Indigenous and western knowledge on research topics ranging from climate change and physical and mental health, youth resilience and engagement, cultural continuity, youth mentorship programs, food security and sharing, land camps, adaptation to rapid change, and fostering individual and community wellness.

Before coming to Cape Breton University and taking up the Canada Research Chair position, Ashlee worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at McGill University in the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group, and completed a BAH and a PhD at the University of Guelph.


Currently I have several research projects on-going. If you are interested in learning more about any of these projects, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Ilikkuset-Lingannet! / Culture-Connect! Program
The Ilikkuset-Lingannet! / Culture-Connnect! program is a new Inuit-run initiative in Rigolet, Makkovik, and Postville, Nunatsiavut, Labrador. It provides the opportunity for Inuit youth to work with adult role models through immersive, experiential environments to learn cultural skills, such as hunting, trapping, sewing, art, music, and food preparation. Currently, there are 15 youth and 15 mentors in the program. Each youth spends approximately 4-5 weeks with each mentor, before moving to the next skill. This project was set up in response to the identified need to increase programming for youth in the communities that provide cultural connection, promote self-esteem, and create opportunities for building relationships with positive adult role models. Youth are currently documenting their stories and experiences in order to create a collaborative group film (forthcoming March 2014).

Inuit Mental Health & Adaptation to Climate Change
The Inuit Mental Health and Adaptation to Climate Change project is a community-led regional project based in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, and working in collaboration with the Inuit Community Governments of Nain, Hopedale, Postville, and Makkovik, the ‘My Word’: Storytelling and Digital Media Lab, and the Nunatsiavut Government. This community-based and community-led research aims to explore and examine the connections between changes in snow, ice, weather, water, animals, and plants throughout the Nunatsiavut region and mental and emotional health and well-being. The IMHACC project builds off research conducted in Rigolet through the Changing Climate, Changing Health, Changing Stories project, which became the first case study conducted examining the impacts of climate change on health and well-being within an Inuit context. Understanding the importance of this topic, the communities of Nunatsiavut united together to begin a regional assessment of the impacts of climate change on mental health and well-being, and to look at potential mental health adaptation strategies and support services. Data was collected through 110 in-depth interviews, 17 digital stories, and 20 video interviews, which formed the basis for a documentary film on climate change and mental health (forthcoming March 2014). This research was featured on CBC’s Quirks & Quarks in January 2014:, as well as being featured in news media across North America.  Intro video about the project:

The Inuit Traditional Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change project (IK-ADAPT) is a trans-disciplinary initiative that combines scientific research and Inuit traditional knowledge (IK) to develop an evidentiary base to inform policy and programming needed to assist Inuit communities adapt to the health effects of climate change. Working closely with 6 communities across Arctic Canada and knowledge users at multiple levels, the project examines ways to document, conserve, and promote IK to help prevent, prepare for, and manage the health impacts of climate change. The focus on IK reflects the continued importance of traditional approaches to health, where ‘health’ captures physical, mental and social well-being. It also reflects recognition of the importance of IK for climate adaptation, and concern across the North that this knowledge is being incompletely transmitted to younger generations.

Environment and/as Mourning
I am currently co-editing a book with Dr. Karen Landman at the University of Guelph. The Environment and/as Mourning collection brings together 15 authors from around the world in order to approach the theoretical, practical, and praxiological intersections between experiences of grief and mourning and the environment. This volume brings together a wide variety of backgrounds and projects in the social, human, and animal sciences, as well as the humanities. This booked stemmed from an article I published on re-conceptualising climate change as the work of mourning.

Centre for Community-Engaged Health Research
I am currently creating and establishing the Centre for Community-Engaged Health Research (CCEHR) at Cape Breton University. This Centre will bring together researchers, health professionals, clinicians, organizations, and communities to collaboratively tackle the complex health challenges in Cape Breton, Canada and abroad.  Through the CCEHR, our multi-disciplinary team plans to mobilize cutting-edge research results into tangible health strategies and health programming that aims to enhance and support the underlying determinants of health and well-being. The CCEHR will be structured around three overlapping themes and priorities—Indigenous peoples’ health, climatic and environmental change and health, health and place, and health justice/equity—all centred around participatory research methods. Embedded within the Centre’s space will be a full digital media lab, containing all needed photography and video equipment, computers, editing software, and sound-proof facilities to create videos, multi-media health resources, and documentary films, and to support a variety of innovative media-based health methodologies. Together, the members of the CCEHR and their partners and collaborators will work towards health strategies that can help individuals, communities, researchers, health practitioners, and decision-makers enhance health and assist in decreasing health disparities throughout Cape Breton, Canada, and abroad.

Some Personal Favourites from the Digital Storytelling Projects
Tanya’s Story:
Melva’s Story:
Marilyn’s Story:
Kenny’s Story: