University of Cambridge > > British Antarctic Survey - Polar Oceans seminar series > Ikaaġvik Sikukun: Bridging the Scientific and Indigenous Communities to Study Sea Ice Change in Arctic Alaska

Ikaaġvik Sikukun: Bridging the Scientific and Indigenous Communities to Study Sea Ice Change in Arctic Alaska

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Taking its name from the Iñupiaq phrase for “ice bridge” the Ikaaġvik Sikukun project has successfully built bridges between a diverse team of scientists and Indigenous Knowledge-holders to study the changing sea-ice environment of Kotzebue Sound, Alaska. We have broken new ground by co-producing our hypotheses in partnership with an Indigenous Elder advisory council to develop research questions that cut across disciplinary boundaries and address the needs of both the local and scientific communities. To share our story broadly and in a way that respects the oral traditions of Indigenous Knowledge, our team also includes an ethnographic film-maker who has been documenting each step of our unique research journey. Over the past three years, with continued guidance from our advisory council, we have designed and carried out a research plan to observe the sea ice and marine mammals in Kotzebue Sound and how these come together as habitat and hunting grounds. Using satellite data, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), oceanographic moorings and on-ice measurements we have witnessed two exceptional years (2018 and 2019) with unprecedentedly low sea ice extent and the earliest start of bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) hunting in recent memory – contributing to a broader trend towards shorter spring hunting seasons, which have been recorded in Kotzebue since 2003. We also observed widespread flooding of the landfast ice, possibly caused by relatively high snowfall on top of thin ice, as well as the detachment and fragmentation of landfast ice recently occupied by ringed seal (Phoca hispida) pups, adults, and their lairs. Having integrated Indigenous Knowledge throughout our approach, we are now in a unique position to turn these interrelated observations into answers to our research questions. Join the diverse Ikaaġvik Sikukun team as I share an overview of our research approach and preliminary results including observations of the sea ice heat budget that undergoes a rapid change during Spring melt and breakup, as well as the profound impact of sea ice change on the traditional use of these regions by local indigenous Iñupiaq populations.

Team: Andrew R. Mahoney, Sarah Betcher, Donna Hauser, Ajit Subramaniam, Alex Whiting, John Goodwin, Cyrus Harris, Robert Schaeffer, Ross Schaeffer, Nathan Laxague, Jessica Lindsay, Carson Witte

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey - Polar Oceans seminar series series.

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