Historical Ecology for Risk Management 2014

What Are They Doing?

A view of the beach from downtown Barrow, AlaskaA view of the beach from downtown Barrow, Alaska Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc., ARIES, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, BASC, the North Slope Borough of Risk Management, and Cooperative Extension of Ilisgavik College are collaborating to plan, develop and implement a historical ecology model for the North Slope Coastal Region of Alaska. Historical ecology is an applied research program that focuses on interactions of people and their environments. Research applications involve studying and understanding this relationship in both time and space to gain a full picture of all of its accumulated effects. The research program can be applied to understanding changes among community landscapes that can assist strategies for the future. For this proposal the emphases align with the ARIES mission of research, education and community engagement, the Inupiaq Learning Framework of the North Slope School District, and the eco-heritage indicator of the CRIOS model (Cumulative Regional Integrated Operability Scores). Read more at the project website here.

The project emphases are 1) a bibliographic database of relevant historical resources, 2) an examination of the shoreline to provide a long time-series baseline, 3) simulation models to demonstrate socio-natural cycles of change for the North Slope shoreline, 4) the historical ecology study of the shoreline, interactive mapping and database available as a web based resource to assist academia, industry, regional government and local communities for socio-natural risk management (e.g., Barrow Area Information Database, 5) an integrated team of researchers, corporations, community planners, and Risk Management of the North Slope Borough to extract data and provide simulation models that apply to current studies and hazards of the region, especially mitigation tools for community decisions, and 6) provide a variety of eco-heritage opportunities that include community participation in research, educational products, age level appropriate activities and outreaches for community service learning, such as Teen CERT for the Next Generations and PolarTREC.

Where Are They?

Welcome to Barrow, AlaskaWelcome to Barrow, Alaska The team was in Barrow, Alaska on the North Slope Borough Coast. Barrow is the economic, transportation and administrative center for the North Slope Borough. Located on the Chukchi Sea coast, Barrow is the northernmost community in the United States. The community is traditionally known as Ukpeagvik, "place where snowy owls are hunted". Learn more from the City of Barrow Website

The land is vast and remote; and while seemingly rugged, is remarkably fragile. The ancient cultural traditions practiced today by Iñupiat Eskimos have survived in one of the world's harshest climates through their ability to adapt. They adapted to the discovery of oil in their traditional homeland by forming the North Slope Borough which offers residents a chance to help manage the lands, participate in the benefits of the oil boom while at the same time protect subsistence values, especially whaling. Learn more about the North Slope of Alaska.


Screen shot of video title Goodbye Barrow
Goodbye everyone, After a month in Barrow it is time for me to say goodbye and to thank the people who helped me on my expedition. Graduate student Mike Brady, and my researchers Dr. Anne Garland and Dr. Kathleen Fischer who taught me about historical ecology, risk management, coastal erosion. (Video with audio) The skies cleared as I boarded my flight to anchorage. (Video with audio) My red eye flight gave me an amazing view of the super moon as I headed toward Phoenix, Arizona where the weather was just what is hoping it would be: sunny and hot!
Screen shot of video title Arctic Climate Monitoring
Hello Everyone, Did you know that NOAA has an Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), part of the Global Monitoring Division, just outside of Barrow, Alaska? The Global Monitoring Division conducts observations and research related to the ozone layer, air quality, and climate change. Barrow is just one of many observatories scattered around the world in places like the South Pole, Samoa, and Hawaii. We got a behind the scenes tour from technician Ross Burgener. (Video with audio) The observatories measure things in the air such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide...
Screen shot of video title Arctic Weather
Hello Everyone, Understanding the weather is important no matter where you are. But up in the Arctic it can be life or death. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) Alaska Region provides weather, hydrologic, climate forecasts and volcanic ash and tsunami warnings for the state of Alaska and its surrounding waters. Barrow is home to the nations northern most weather monitoring station. We got a behind the scenes visit with meteorologist technician Gina Strum who was working the graveyard shift. Gina showed us the ins and outs of...
Screen shot of video title Arctic Beaches
Hello everyone, Beaches are fun to visit no matter where you are in the world, including the Arctic. So I hit the Barrow beach with oceanographer Dr. Kathleen Fischer to see what we could learn. Barrow's beach is very different from the tan colored, sandy beaches I am use to back home. The beach here is mostly gravel. Grains of sediment are classified based on there size, shape, and sorting. The smallest size is clay which are particles smaller than 1/256 mm. As you move up in size, the sediment changes to silt which is smaller than 1/16th mm but larger than clay, then comes sand which...
Screen shot of video title Arctic Storm Surges
Hello everyone, do you know what a storm surge is? They are a big concern in many coastal communities including Barrow. A storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level, over and above the regular astronomical tide. Large waves form when you have high wind speed, long wind duration, and a large fetch. Fetch is the distance of open water that the wind blows across. So when the landfast ice breaks up and moves far off shore, it opens up a bigger fetch. This is why Barrow’s deadly storm surges occur during late summer and fall - it's because the ice is far off shore and can’t act as a barrier to...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

14 July 2014 to 9 August 2014
Location: Barrow, AK
Project Funded Title: Historical Ecology for Risk Management: Youth Sustainability (HERMYS)

Meet the Team

Sian Proctor's picture
South Mountain Community College
Phoenix, AZ
United States

Sian Proctor is a geology professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. Throughout her adult life she has pushed herself to take on new challenges and to learn new things that she can bring back to her students. She has a BS in environmental science, MS in geology, and a PhD in science education. Both her master's and doctoral research involved the use of technology to understand how individuals learn. She is continually developing new ways to engage her students and to present scientific information. She has a strong curriculum development background, teaches both hybrid and online classes, and has traveled and taught around the world. She was a finalist for the 2009 NASA Astronaut Program, was on the Discovery Channel reality TV show called The Colony, and was the Education Outreach Officer on the 4-month NASA funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation 2013 Mission (hi-seas.org). Sian's experiences on The Colony and the HI-SEAS mission have taught her how to live in unique environments. She believes in life-long learning and tries to encourage this philosophy with her students. She loves traveling, playing sports, photography, and cooking.

Anne Garland's picture
Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc.
Smithfield, VA
United States

Anne is interested in applying natural science and social science research to assist community based decision making in the areas of Historical Ecology, Public Archaeology, Museum Education, Culture Contact Studies, Applied Anthropology for Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation. You can see her ARIES website here.

Kathleen Fischer's picture
Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc.
Lisle, IL
United States

Following completion of her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Illinois - Chicago, Kathleen worked in industry as an engineer and research chemist prior to attending graduate school. After completing her Ph.D. in oceanography (geochemistry) at Oregon State University, she worked for the Navy as a civilian scientist (oceanographer). Kathleen also completed a J.D. degree at Willamette University College of Law. She taught marine science and coastal management full time at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. She has been the Corporate Treasurer of Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc. for the past 6 years, also teaching earth science and oceanography courses as an adjunct at a community college until a few years ago. Her interests are in coastal management, both regulatory, policy, and scientific aspects, and near-shore processes affecting coastal erosion. She is the author or co-author of several published papers.

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Latest Comments

Sian, The video is fascinating. In Southern California, we often get cold winter storms from "the gulf of Alaska". It is interesting to see how this all comes together. I think it is amazing that...
Hey Jillian, it's great hearing from you. Barrow just came out with a draft comprehensive plan for the city, including Browerville and NARL, and they have no plans to move the city but they are...
Thanks for the comment Janet. The last few days of walking the coast have been really great.
Thanks Lucy! It's really interesting how quickly things are changing up here at the waters edge. These big waves and storm surges are a really big deal. The storm I posted about was small but early...
Hi Peggy, great question. I think it's because they got all the big things in 1981 and even published a book on this location. These samples are the leftover, smaller samples, that got stored and are...