Cupids Health

Tracking the Impact of Climate Change in Alaska

Team from Lamont-Doherty and Kotzebue community members with their unoccupied aerial vehicle

Team from Lamont-Doherty and Kotzebue community members with their unoccupied aerial vehicle

You and your team are near the end of your five-year project. What insights do you hope to gain from your research? 

From a science perspective, we want to understand the impact of climate change on this area. Why was the ice so far into the sound? Why wasn’t any sea ice there at the time it usually is? Why did it break up early? Once we fully analyze our data, we hope we can answer these questions and more, which will lead to greater understanding of why we need to mitigate the effects of climate change.

From the local perspective, we want to understand what impact the receding ice has on their community’s ugruk hunts. We observed that climate change affected how the receding ice made it physically more challenging for the community members to hunt on the ice. We definitely saw that the hunting season is becoming much shorter. These factors made hunting the seals, which the community needs for subsistence living, general well-being and the Indigenous way of life, much more difficult. I hope this co-production of knowledge gained during Ikaaġvik Sikukun can provide useful information for the community  to have continued successful seal hunts.

How do you think that you can replicate this type of project for other communities?

That’s a very good question. A few colleagues and myself, are figuring out how to do that. The first thing we want to do is go to communities where other river systems are important. We may start in the Yukon Delta or the Mackenzie River Delta. Our community-based research approach begins with developing and establishing relationships in these communities. Then we’ll be able to build on those relationships and develop the board of advisory council of elders, like we did in Kotzebue. Every community may have different concerns or research questions that are completely different from Kotzebue, such as fishing and food security. However, we feel that our community-based approach is adaptable to wherever we conduct our next project.

Originally published by Columbia News

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