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An inside look at ducks
Researchers demonstrate duck dissection to Cape Dorset students

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 31, 2012

With jars, labeled in both English and Inuktitut, ready to receive duck body parts, and with scalpels, scissors and other necropsy equipment on hand, Cape Dorset high school students took a close look last month at the birds they sometimes eat.

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Environment Canada researcher Jennifer Borden dissects a duck in front of curious Grade 7 students at Peter Pitseolak School in Cape Dorset late last month. - photo courtesy of Peter Pitseolak School

Jennifer Provencher, a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, and other members of her research team visited Peter Pitseolak and Sam Pudlat Schools in Cape Dorset to demonstrate a duck dissection to the students.

She collects the birds during the hunting season to dissect them as part of her research, looking for signs of disease, parasites and chemicals. During her stay in the south Baffin community, from May 14 to 30, she caught 74 ducks and took the time to dissect ducks at both the elementary and high schools. Provencher, who also works for Environment Canada, said the government wants to give students an opportunity to see what science is in the North.

"While we're dissecting birds, we actually talk with the students and the teachers about what parts of the animals are eaten and also what parts we use for science," she said. "The feathers we use for genetics and the liver, we use to look for harmful contaminants."

The ducks were measured and weighed, then feather samples were collected before the actual dissection

Genevieve Sadler, a science teacher at the high school, said it was a very good experience for the students.

"The students would integrate what they saw and the different body parts with what they traditionally eat of these animals," said Sadler. "Of course, they recognized some of the internal body parts they traditionally eat, like the stomach."

One of those students was Grade 7 student Elisa Allooloo said she did not find the dissection gross but learned the names of the body parts of a duck.

"I enjoyed it because it looked fun and interesting," said the 12-year-old, who held the liver jar during the dissection.

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