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Polar Science at a Human Scale

Knowledge Co-production for Hazard Planning, Food Sovereignty and Climate Adaptation in the Alaskan Arctic

This co-designed and co-managed project will bring together an interdisciplinary team of polar researchers from the University of Washington to work with Kivalina Volunteer Search and Rescue (KVL-SAR) and the City of Kivalina to support the organization’s goals and priorities while establishing a model of community-driven polar research for the coproduction of knowledge and action. Kivalina is a 500-person Iñupiaq community in Northwest Alaska, located 80 miles above the Arctic Circle on a barrier island along the Chukchi Sea. Over the last two decades the territory around Kivalina has undergone a dramatic decrease in sea-ice cover, decreased reliability of river ice, and shifts in the timing of freeze up and critical animal migrations. These changes have created new challenges including amplified coastal erosion during seasonal storms; increased frequency of hunter, fisher, and traveler distress calls and rescue incidents; and a reduction in access to culturally significant foods. KVL-SAR is a voluntary association of hunters and first responders that works with the City of Kivalina to play a vital role in public safety, resilience, and hunter support, while also planning for and responding to climate challenges already taking place. 

Bridging the social and physical sciences, this project addresses core themes in the human dimensions of Arctic change, while also directly contributing to KVL-SAR’s self-identified priorities. First, the project will support KVL-SAR capacity building through an analysis of the organization’s contributions to community safety, resilience, and food sovereignty, while piloting and evaluating the use of two new digital tools. Second, we will produce a community hazards and needs assessment to integrate the knowledge, expertise, and priorities of KVL-SAR with contributions from UW polar scientists. Third, we will develop new methods in community-relevant sea ice forecasting to support local planning and decision making. Fourth, we will document our methods in order to develop a model of collaboration that can be shared with additional communities and contribute to the literature on best-practices through peer-reviewed publications. Finally, this project will identify strategic opportunities for new research funding, generate data to be used in future KVL-SAR grant proposals, and create the relational infrastructure for long-term collaboration.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator, Project Co-Director: P. Joshua Griffin, UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and UW American Indian Studies
Community Partner, Project Co-Director: Replogle Swan, Kivalina Volunteer Search and Rescue
Polar Science Co-Lead: Cecilia Bitz, Professor and Chair, UW Department of Atmospheric Science 
Polar Science Co-Lead: Ed Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, Research Assistant Professor, UW Department of Atmospheric Science