Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Yukon River Chinook Salmon Declines: Learning From Tradition (Award# 1536104)

PI: Moncrieff, Catherine (
Phone: (907) 272.3141 
Institute/Department: Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association,  
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Education and Outreach | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This award to the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YRDFA) will support an interdisciplinary workshop with Yup'ik Elders from the Yukon River Delta, social scientists, and natural resource managers investigating the natural history, environment, and health of the cultural keystone species whose numbers are in precipitous decline, the Chinook salmon of the Yukon River, Alaska. The focus of the workshop will be Elder knowledge of the salmon and salmon fishing; discussing the history, changes, traditional place names, harvest patterns, diet and food preparation, traditional fishing practices, weather, river conditions, other animal and plant communities related to these practices, as well as other relevant topics. This project is modeled after the very successful Yup'ik Environmental Knowledge Project (YEKP) carried out by Calista Education and Culture (CEC). Part of the project will be to transcribe all of the recordings from the knowledge workshop. Following the workshop resulting data will be analyzed and compared with other data sources, e.g., Alaska Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, scientific research reports and publications, etc. in order to gain a more complete picture of the natural history, environment, and health of Chinook salmon. Information produced through the workshop will be shared widely among Yup’ik communities, stakeholders, resource managers, and scientists. Objectives of the project are: 1) To work with Yukon River Elder experts during a two and a half day workshop focused on Chinook salmon declines; 2) To analyze and compare findings with contemporary social and biological studies about harvest patterns, weather conditions, and related animal patterns; 3) To share the information gathered with Alaska Native and non-Native communities, resource managers and scientists. YRDFA will work in collaboration with the CEC and use their proven model and methodology. Elder experts will participate in an intensive multi-day Yup'ik language workshop in a comfortable setting, talking at length about Chinook salmon declines. They will be able to speak freely about concepts that may not be easily translatable into English and will contain significant descriptions of places, animals, and activities. The Elders will interact with social scientists from the CEC and the YRDFA who will host, guide, record, and analyze the workshop interactions. Discussion points will be reviewed in advance with western scientists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gather their input on discussion topics that would meet their areas of management and research interests. Following the meeting in Anchorage, the recordings will be transcribed and translated into English. The transcriptions will be analyzed by theme by the PI. The themes will be shared with the ADFG and USFWS managers to review for areas of further consideration and analysis with existing fisheries data. This information will also be shared with the Alaska Native communities that participated in the study.

Logistics Summary:
The major goals of this project are to hold a regional workshop with knowledgeable Elders from the lower Yukon River to discuss Chinook salmon and to share their knowledge and experiences with Yukon River communities, fishermen and fisheries management staff. The workshop is held in Central Alaskan Yup’ik, the Elders’ first language.The information gathered is useful to fisheries managers and younger generations bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and western science. This focused workshop was also held in partnership with Calista Education and Culture (CEC), maximizing on their experience and some of the shared goals of our two organizations. Then the information will be translated and analyzed in conjunction with western science. This project conducted a 3-day workshop focused on Chinook salmon with 6 knowledgeable Yup’ik speaking Elders from the lower Yukon River. It was held from January 30th to February 2nd of 2017. No fieldwork was conducted.

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