Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Connecting Indigenous Knowledge to Landscape Process Research, Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska (Award# 0548846)

PI: Eisner, Wendy R (wendy.eisner@UC.Edu)
Phone: (513) 556.3926 
Institute/Department: U of Cincinnati, Department of Geography 
IPY Project? NO
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\SBE\BCS
Program Manager: Dr. Thomas Baerwald (
Discipline(s): | Biology\Limnology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
Thaw lakes cover about 20% of the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska. Another 26% is scarred by basins that form when lakes drain, and these drained thaw lake basins (DTLBs) are sites for preferential carbon accumulation as plant biomass. Recent studies in the continuous permafrost zone of Western Siberia suggest that lakes have been expanding in the past several decades in response to regional warming. Anticipated regional warming would likely mobilize sequestered soil organic carbon, resulting in the emission of CO2 and CH4. To date, our understanding of the processes leading to thaw lake formation, expansion, and drainage in Alaska is limited because models are specific to the flat, young Outer (seaward) Coastal Plain comprising 1/3 of the region. Further, spatial and temporal analysis of lake dynamics is largely restricted to the period since 1948, when aerial photographs first became available across large regions of the Coastal Plain. In order to fill in these gaps, we propose to interview Iñupiaq elders and community members from the villages of Atqasuk and Barrow. The objective of these interviews is to obtain accounts of lake formation, expansion and drainage that have occurred within living or oral memory, and extend the record back several generations. The research represents a systematic effort to collect data on thaw lake dynamics in order to understand the basic geomorphic processes influencing landscape evolution on the Arctic Coastal Plain. We will use indigenous knowledge (IK) to identify the type and frequency of place-based processes. The study area includes the Outer and Inner Coastal Plains; surfaces of different age, surficial deposits, relief, ground ice content, and lake morphology.

Logistics Summary:
For this project, which uses Indigenous Knowledge (IK) to augment other data to better understand lake thaw basins on the coastal plain of Alaska, researchers will make two field visits to Barrow and either Atqasuk or Nuiqsut, Alaska, during each of three years from 2006 to 2008, with a final visit in 2009 to share results. Each year in February or March, a field team of three will visit two Alaskan villages to conduct interviews with elders in those communities in reference to their IK on lake thaw drainage. Later, a field team of about 6 will spend another two weeks in Alaska. Approximately 3 of these personnel will travel to field sites via helicopter or all-terrain vehicle to collect soil cores, verify sites of historic/cultural interest, collect spectra, and map vegetation in the thaw basins; some elders also may make site visits as well to identify former lakes and provide other IK. Those approximately 3 team members remaining in the villages will conduct more IK interviews, hold workshops to train interested persons in field work methods, and otherwise participate in community outreach. In 2007, the CPS-supported work will take place over about one week in mid-August. The team will travel to Barrow, and onward from there via BASC-chartered aircraft to Inigok. The team will conduct 5 days of helicopter-supported field work in the region. In 2008, the CPS-supported helicopter work will take place in June and August. The team will travel to/from the field sites via helicopter, and CPS will position a helicopter coordinator in Barrow for the June period to assist with scheduling/maximizing the resource. In 2009 a team of three will return for a final, seven-day June visit. The team will base from Barrow, and conduct a final workshop there to present results, explain how the information can be accessed in a GIS data base, and seek permission for future studies of this natue.

--CPS will provide up to 10 hours of helicopter support to the field team per year for transportation among the field sites. --In 2007 and 2008, BASC will provide all other support, including user days in Barrow and Atqasuk, laboratory space, use of trucks, costs for local participants, etc. -- In 2009 CPS will work with BTS Professional Services (BTSPS) and other local organizations to provide lodging, meals, lab space, vehicles, commercial air support and activities related to running a small workshop. BTSPS will engage the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium to provide on-the-ground support in Barrow.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2006Alaska - Atqasuk08 / 13 / 2006 08 / 17 / 20068
2006Alaska - Utqiaġvik (Barrow)08 / 04 / 2006 08 / 26 / 20069
2007Alaska - Inigok 08 / 15 / 2007 08 / 19 / 20076
2008Alaska - Utqiaġvik (Barrow)06 / 06 / 2008 08 / 25 / 20083
2009Alaska - Utqiaġvik (Barrow)06 / 16 / 2009 06 / 22 / 20093

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