Update: The NSB Shell Baseline Studies Program has a New Name - CAASP

In 2015, the North Slope Borough-Shell Baseline Studies Program renamed itself as the Collaborative Alaskan Arctic Studies Program (CAASP).  We wanted to attract other partners in addition to the NSB and Shell. When Shell announced this fall that they were leaving Alaska, our name change became even more important. With Shell leaving Alaska, our studies program is in transition. We are currently planning for the next steps. We know that Shell does not expect to provide new funding but we will continue to talk to them about the studies they have helped fund. We are now evaluating our priorities, looking for other partners, and looking for other sources of funding.                                           Our steering committee has provided valuable insights into what concerns and questions need to be addressed. Those ideas have come primarily from North Slope villages. CAASP involves representatives from the villages, the NSB, Shell, and independent scientists. Scientists, hunters, and village representatives working together to set study priorities is unique and could be valuable for other oil companies, Federal and State agencies, and others. We thank each of our committee members for the time and contributions they have given to this program. We also hope to continue to operate the steering committee in the future, if we can find the funds.                                                                             Even though Shell is leaving Alaska, we expect to continue collecting baseline information in 2016 from funding they have provided. Those studies include: satellite tracking of ringed, spotted and bearded seals, stress monitoring of bowheads, a laboratory test of exposure of juvenile salmon to spilled and dispersed oil, and genetics studies of polar bears and belugas. We will also be working on a variety of reports for the villages, agencies and scientists. Those reports include: movements of surface currents of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, forage fish in the western Beaufort, traditional knowledge of belugas whales, contaminant levels, and calving surveys of caribou. Please contact Robert Suydam or Craig George at 852-0350 if you have any questions or suggestions about CAASP.

The arctic is changing — the sea ice, the landscape, and the amount of use by humans, including oil and gas, shipping and other activities. Criticisms of development in the Arctic include the limited ability to clean up spilled oil, impacts of sounds on marine mammals, and the lack of information, or data gaps, in the knowledge base.  In 2010 the NSB entered into a Collaborative Research Agreement with the Shell Exploration & Production Company to help fill data gaps.  The NSB and Shell recognized that better information was needed to make good decisions regarding development in the Arctic Ocean, specifically the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
There are data gaps in the biology of marine mammals, fish and invertebrates, and in the physical and chemical characteristics of the ocean itself.  There are also gaps in the cumulative effects of development and other activities on the marine mammals and on the people who subsist on those marine mammals. To understand the effects on humans, information is needed on human health, social and cultural conditions.
The NSB/Shell Baseline Studies Steering Committee was formed to guide the research based on needs and priorities.  The Committee is made up of two appointees from the NSB, two appointees from Shell, four independent scientists appointed by the NSB Mayor, and one nominee from each of the six coastal villages, including Barrow, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright. Shell provided funds to the NSB for the Dept. of Wildlife Management to implement the studies recommend- ed by the Steering Committee. 
In the first year of the Research Agreement, Shell provided two million dollars which was used to hire support staff for the program and to fund start-up research projects. Shell has provided five million dollars to be able to continue these studies and to bring in additional projects for 2012. Current Projects include the continuation of the marine mammal health assessment, ringed seal tagging and surface current mapping and more. Future projects include:

  • holding a workshop to combine traditional knowledge of sea ice with western science
  • holding a workshop to develop priorities for subsistence studies
  • looking at impacts of helicopters on subsistence activities
  • analyzing bowhead ship strike and line entanglement data from the harvest records
  • learning more about forage fish and oceanography in the Chukchi Sea, and
  • learning more about walrus haulouts on the beaches of the Chukchi Sea.

If you have ideas for needed studies or have concerns, contact your village representative to the Steering Committee or Robert Suydam at NSB-DWM.

NSB/Shell Baseline Studies Agreement Shell and the North Slope Borough signed an agreement to collaborate on scientific studies related to baseline conditions and effectiveness of mitigation measures.  The agreement includes the development of a steering committee, which will help to identify and prioritize study needs.

NSB/Shell Baseline Studies Steering Committee

Committee Member

Representative of:

Ransom Agnasagga

City of Wainwright - Primary

Victoria Broje, Ph.D.

Shell

Hajo Eicken, Ph.D.

Independent Scientist

Isaac Garner

City of Nuiqsut - Alternate

John “Craig” George, Ph.D.

NSB

Qaiyaan Harcharek

City of Barrow - Primary

Clayton Kaigelak

City of Nuiqsut - Primary

Lee Kayotuk

City Of Kaktovik - Primary

**Michael Macrander, Ph.D.

Shell

Sue Moore, Ph.D.

Independent Scientist

Willard P. Neakok

Native Village of Pt. Lay - Primary

Enoch Oktollik

City of Wainwright - Alternate

Ronald W. Oviok, Sr.

City of Point Hope - Primary

Danny K. Pikok, Jr.

Native Village of Pt. Lay - Alternate

Jack Schaefer

City of Point Hope - Alternate

Brandon Southall, Ph.D.

Independent Scientist

*Robert Suydam, Ph.D.

NSB

Tom Weingartner, Ph.D.

Independent Scientist

*Chairman
**Vice-Chairman
Steering Committee Contact: Robert Suydam

NSB/Shell Baseline Studies Committee Meeting Minutes

Chukchi Current and Ice Movement Workshop

In a concerted effort to contribute to a better understanding of the marine and coastal environments potentially affected by offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction, this study will synthesize and compare scientific and local expert knowledge of environmental processes relevant to local communities and marine life. Based on the inclusion of local expert knowledge, new insights will be developed that refine our knowledge of oceanographic, sea ice, and meteorological processes. Specifically, we expect that results will provide insights into the role of currents, local weather patterns, and bathymetry in controlling ice movement, dispersal of marine life, and their importance in emergency response. Furthermore, the work will provide guidance for observing programs and improvement of models and emergency response capabilities.

Chukchi Currents and Ice Workshop Agenda

Chukchi Currents and Ice Workshop Summary Report  PDF version

Video of the Workshop by Nokinba Acker

Participants in the Barrow Workshop.

Chukchi Currents and Ice Workshop 2013 Barrow/Wainwright, Alaska Watch this video overview of the workshops held in Barrow and Wainwright on Currents and Ice Movements in the Chukchi Sea. The video was filmed and produced by Nokinba Acker, Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC).

Information on Oil And Gas Activities on the North Slope

Banner photo credit: Adrienne Boland