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UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS
Alaska Arctic Observatory & Knowledge Hub: Community-based observations of changes in the seasonal cycle in Alaska's Arctic

About the Observatory and Knowledge Hub

We provide resources and scientific information for sharing expertise and observations of Alaska sea ice, wildlife, and coastal waters.

How our network benefits science and communities

  • As a whole, these observations from Indigenous Knowledge holders across Northern Alaska coastal communities provide a broad-scale view of changing coastal conditions—and ultimately impacts—at the community scale.
  • We weave connections among Indigenous and scientific perspectives by putting local observations in the context of scientific measurements of ice and ocean conditions.

Participating communities

Kaktovik, Kotzebue, Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright, Utqiaġvik, and Wales are part of the AAOKH network.

AAOKH observers

We support local observers in communities across coastal Arctic Alaska. AAOKH’s observers provide regular observations about sea ice, wildlife and coastal waters. They are also trained to use scientific instruments to regularly measure water properties.

steller sea lion

Steller sea lion spotted outside Utqiaġvik, August 2018. (Photo: Mark Ahsoak, Jr.)

2019 observing team

  • Billy Adams, Utqiaġvik
  • Joe Mello Leavitt, Utqiaġvik
  • Guy Omnik, Point Hope
  • Steven Patkotak, Wainwright
  • Bobby Schaeffer, Kotzebue
  • Vince Schaeffer, Kotzebue
  • Carla SimsKayotuk, Kaktovik
  • Robert Tokeinna Jr., Wales
ice and snowmachine

Steven Patkotak, Wainwright observer

Big ocean shows itself with so much ice gone. Huge lead and waves makes for snap, crackle, and pop. Landfast [ice] keeps breaking away.

river

Qaiyaan Harcharek, Utqiaġvik steering group

Now we’re lucky to start ice fishing in October. By the time the river is safe the fish have already spawned.

Billy Adams, Utqiaġvik observer

There was a large bearded seal with hair loss, discolored blubber, did not smell right, and hard bumps throughout the seal. Many harvested seals have been reported in [coastal Alaska]. It is a concern that we should discuss more.

Noah Naylor, Kotzebue steering group

Ice is important for Ugruk [bearded seal] hunting. The ice was a lot thinner this past year, so it is necessary to hunt earlier and earlier.

kukpuk river map 1921

Guy Omnik, Point Hope observer

The Kukpuk river is finally getting low. We've had so much rain this fall, the river was way above normal. The fish are on the move now the water’s getting low. I had one net under the ice but I took it out (melting too much). The ice got a little thinner, too warm lately.

Carla SimsKayotuk, Kaktovik observer

One section [of the snow fence] collapsed due to erosion of the ground. At the other end the fence looks like it was placed in the water. Over the past 3 or so years the water level has gotten high and eroded the sand beach and ground [where] we used to be able to drive or walk. It has pretty much become an island of its own.

AAOKH scientists

Donna Hauser

Donna Hauser, PhD

Dr. Donna Hauser is AAOKH’s science lead and a marine mammal expert. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on changing Arctic marine ecosystems. Raised in Alaska, she is deeply connected to the state, its people, and its marine resources.

Donna became Science Lead in 2018, following the leadership of Dr. Olivia Lee from 2015-2018. Dr. Hajo Eicken is the lead investigator for the AAOKH project.

Josh Jones

Josh Jones is AAOKH’s research coordinator. His interests include coastal sea ice dynamics and local & traditional knowledge. He is also an avid fisherman, and is particularly passionate about ice fishing.

Introduction to observing networks

There is a need for sustained observation efforts such as AAOKH that include Indigenous knowledge and citizen science. Source: Study of Environmental Arctic Change