Kotzebue’s Collaborative Research

A group of Tribal scientists, independent researchers and regional leadership collaborated to study changes in Kotzebue Sound. The Northwest Arctic Borough science program ran for three years, funded by Shell Oil Company to support environmental research and related activities to better understand the region’s marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems and potential impacts from human activity.

The Borough created a science steering committee, with members from the region’s communities and from the broader scientific community, to provide guidance on the design of the program and what to fund. Early on, the program funded a review of the state of knowledge about the region’s ecosystems, which helped identify priority areas for new research. Several projects were conducted, including examination of coastal geomorphology, fish studies, seabird surveys, monitoring of ocean currents, and acoustic recordings to document marine mammal patterns. In each case, scientists were encouraged to make connections with the region’s residents and tribes.

In addition to the research projects, the program funded two workshops designed to combine Indigenous and scientific knowledge to better understand ecosystem functions and dynamics. One examined the caribou ecosystem and the other looked at Kotzebue Sound. Although the program ended when funding ran out, the Borough continues to consider ways to better involve its residents in scientific research and to foster greater use of Indigenous knowledge in research and decision-making in the region.

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