Observations on Shorefast Ice Dynamics in Arctic Alaska and Responses of the Iñupiat Hunting Community

Shorefast sea ice forms a platform that facilitates travel, camping, and hunting by Iñupiat subsistence hunters and fishers in the western Arctic, however, this nearshore sea-ice zone is an unforgiving and dynamic environment. Traditional hunters constantly gain experience and hone site-specific skills with which to optimize the reward-to-risk ratio inherent in hunting from this coastal ice. Nearshore ice conditions can change suddenly. Our study focuses on the relationship of subsistence hunters to the ice, the environmental causes of ice failures, the evolving technology for predicting ice behavior, and the longer-term implications of global change for this system.


  • Sea Ice Drawing and Iñupiat Terms (from the article above; illustration by Deb Coccia).

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Traditional Knowledge of Sea Ice

Circulation of Coastal Waters Near Utqiaġvik (Barrow) and Kaktovik

Other Studies in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

Arctic IES – Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Survey – Study of the physical, chemical and biological processes in the Northern Bering and Chukchi Seas. A few articles are linked below; more can be found at the Arctic IES website.

Alaska Shorezone Coastal Inventory and Mapping Project – The purpose of this project is to provide photos and videos of Alaska’s coastline which may be used as baseline data in the future as changes occur due to climate change and increases in development and shipping traffic.

Tracy Burns, 18 years old (from Kaktovik), participated in the ShoreZone/Media Action film workshop this summer in Kaktovik on the North Slope. This ShoreZone cultural project aimed to document traditional knowledge of the coast by facilitating a film workshop with youth, in which they could interview elders about their knowledge of the coast and make movies to show their community. Tracy and Britany Burns’ movie called ‘Weather or Not’ was selected for the Snowdance category of the Anchorage Film Festival. For this film, they interviewed elders in the community about coastal change around their village. Thanks to the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, ExxonMobil, and the North Slope Borough for making the project ‘Sense of Place’ happen in beautiful Kaktovik. Check out videos produced by the students in Kaktovik and Kotzebue at the Vimeo Shorezone page.

Chukchi Current and Ice Movement Workshop

CHAOZ (CHukchi Acoustic, Oceanographic, and Zooplankton) Study (NOAA)

Summary: The first CHAOZ cruise took place on board the F/V Alaskan Enterprise. The cruise began in Nome, AK on August 24, 2010 and ended in Dutch Harbor on September 20, 2010. Dr. Catherine Berchok, chief scientist, led a team of 12 scientists representing six different laboratories. In summary, a total of 20 passive acoustic and 7 oceanographic moorings were deployed, 50 hydrographic and zooplankton stations were conducted, 24 hour passive acoustic monitoring (via sonobuoy deployments) occurred, and over 1,750 miles were surveyed for marine mammal and bird observations.

2010 CHAOZ Cruise Report, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, Washington. The 2011 CHAOZ cruise will occur between August 18 and September 3, 2011. See a map of their cruise.

Beaufort Sea: What lives there now? What may live there?

Take a look at the results of a survey conducted in 2008 in the Beaufort Sea). Minerals Managements Service (MMS) funded this study in order to better understand what species of fish and invertebrates were currently in the Beaufort Sea. This information could be used as baseline data for future monitoring for oil and gas development, climate change, or other changes in the Arctic Ocean. Investigators in this study include Elizabeth Logerwell and Kimberly Rand (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA), John Horne and Sandra Parker-Stetter (University of Washington), and Tom Weingartner (University of Alaska).

Uncommon Sightings in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas 

The following posters were presented at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in January of 2012. These presentations discuss the uncommon sightings of marine mammals in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas during marine mammal monitoring efforts undertaken during offshore oil and gas exploration activities.

PacMARS – Pacific Marine Arctic Regional Synthesis – Effort by North Pacific Marine Research Institute to understand the Pacific-influenced coastal shelf ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean.

SOAR – Synthesis of Arctic Research – A multidisciplinary study exploring and integrating information from completed and ongoing marine research in the Pacific Arctic.

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