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 local perspectives 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, ocean and weather conditions.

Participating communities

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

AAOKH observers

We support local observers in communities across coastal Arctic Alaska. AAOKH observers provide regular observations about sea ice, wildlife, weather and coastal waters. Some observers also utilize scientific instruments provided by AAOKH to regularly collect oceanographic measurements.

Observing team (2022)

Bobby Schaeffer

Bobby Schaeffer, Kotzebue

Guy Omnik

Guy Omnik, Point Hope

Steven Patkotak

Steven Patkotak, Wainwright

Billy Adams

Billy Adams, Utqiaġvik

Joe Leavitt

Joe Leavitt, Utqiaġvik

Carla SimsKayotuk

Carla SimsKayotuk, Kaktovik

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.

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.

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 and staff

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. Contact Donna

Alexandra Ravelo

Alexandra Ravelo is a postdoctoral fellow with the AAOKH science team. She's a marine ecologist specializing in invertebrate community ecology and nearshore ecosystems. 

Her doctoral thesis described patterns of invertebrate communities on the Alaska Arctic shelves and the environmental drivers that influence community metrics and species distribution.

Alexandra currently lives in Homer where she enjoys exploring Kachemak Bay with her dog Bandit. Contact Alexandra

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.

Contact Josh

Roberta Glenn

Roberta Tuurraq Glenn is AAOKH's Project Coordinator and Community Liaison.

Roberta helps AAOKH develop and maintain strong relationships with our communities so that our data and observations can be as useful as possible.

Roberta is Iñupiaq and was born and raised in Utqiaġvik. She graduated from UAF with her M.S. in Geography.  Contact Roberta

Krista Heeringa

Krista Heeringa is a key staff member at AAOKH. From Fairbanks, she is grateful for the opportunity to learn from the diverse Indigenous communities across Alaska, and looks forward to working with AAOKH observers.

Krista's work will help determine how observations can be used to support local decision makers as they respond to challenges from climate change in their communities. Contact Krista

Science steering group

The steering group provides guidance on the scientific merits for development of the observing network, and oversight on investments in instruments and infrastructure.

Current members

  • Austin Ahmasuk, Nome
  • Lee Kayotuk, Kaktovik
  • Noah Naylor, Kotzebue
  • Qaiyaan Harcharek, Utqiaġvik
  • Hajo Eicken, UAF
  • Scott Rupp, UAF
  • Sean Topkok, UAF
  • Terry Chapin, UAF
  • Todd Brinkman, UAF

AAOKH Science Steering Group, 2019.

Please contact Donna Hauser if you are interested in serving in this advisory role. See more details

Project background

A 2015 planning workshop was the first step in obtaining guidance from community leaders and scientists for the development of AAOKH. Topics included:

  • How can AAOKH strengthen and sustain an observing network comprised of Iñupiaq snow and ice experts?
  • What key community concerns or hazards related to changes in snow, sea ice, permafrost, or inland ice conditions should AAOKH address—such as impact on food security, access to subsistence resources, safety, etc.?
  • Which concerns or hazards can be measured by providing tools and resources to community members?
  • How can the information that is collected and shared contribute to emergency response and search & rescue efforts?


Our funding comes from Community Service Payments made by a corporate defendant convicted in 2014 of federal environmental and maritime crimes.

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