Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: The Vulnerable North? Risk and Resilience in Alaskan Coastal Communities (Award# 1219390)

PI: Hebert, Karen (
Phone: (203) 436.5281 
Institute/Department: Yale University, F&ES/Anthropology 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
A substantial body of research suggests that the circumpolar and subarctic North is vulnerable to a range of threats, from climate change to economic crisis. Yet less is known about how these assessments square with Northerners' own perceptions and experiences of vulnerability. This three-year qualitative research project examines how different groups of actors in Alaskan coastal communities form knowledge about environmental and economic risk. It further probes how engagement with risk knowledge affects the modes of social action that contribute to resilience. The project's two research sites are both rural fishing regions with mixed Alaska Native and non-Native populations, but each with a somewhat different risk profile: Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska is embroiled in controversy over the proposed Pebble mine, while Sitka in southeast Alaska is home to considerable scientific research on shifting ecosystems, likely due to climate change. In each site, a team of researchers will use ethnographic methodologies, including participant-observation and semi-structured interviews, to determine how knowledge about risk is developed, circulated, received, and used by community residents across generations and by resident and non-resident experts and advocates. The research supported by this award will contribute to scholarship on risk and provide a basis for more appropriate design and communication of measures to mitigate risk and promote resilience. It will also connect natural and social science research topics, partner with local organizations, and engage stakeholders in knowledge production. Community members and graduate students will be a part of mentored research teams in each study fieldsite.

Logistics Summary:
This project will comparatively examine the primary risks confronting coastal Alaska, including current and projected impacts from climate change, economic vicissitudes, and prospective resource development projects with environmental risks. Both study sites, the Bristol Bay region in southwest Alaska and the Sitka Sound area in Southeast Alaska, are subarctic rural regions dependent on fishing and natural resource economies, with mixed Alaska Native and non-Native populations, and larger communities with nearby villages. Beginning in 2013 this three-year project entails two intensive periods of field research by the PI and an associated research team in each of the two Alaska fieldsites during its first two years. Each field research period will be held in the summer for two months, during which time ethnographic, oral historical, and archival research will be conducted in Dillingham and Sitka, with occasional trips made to surrounding villages. Researchers will conduct a total of 40 hour-long interviews in each site during each of the two summer field seasons, for a total of 80 interviews each summer, 80 total interviews for each site, and 160 total project interviews.

All logistics will be organized by the researcher and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2013Alaska - Dillingham06 / 10 / 2013 08 / 16 / 20133
2013Alaska - Sitka06 / 10 / 2013 08 / 16 / 20133
2014Alaska - Dillingham06 / 10 / 2014 08 / 16 / 20143
2014Alaska - Sitka06 / 10 / 2014 08 / 16 / 20143

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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1219390", IPY = "ALL" 
     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1