The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an array of unique research opportunities in Alaska. In Southeast Alaska, the amount of large (and even small) cruise ships traveling through the Inside Passage during the summer of 2020 dropped to nearly zero with the onset of the pandemic. Reduced ship traffic allowed an opportunity to collect baseline water samples from the ocean when it was not being impacted by these large vessels.

During the summer of 2020, the Organized Village of Kake, Kake Tribal Corporation, the City of Kake, and the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy began an ocean monitoring program in Kake, AK.

Team members collected samples of ocean water and mussel tissue (Mytilus edulis) and tested for climate and pollution indicators in and around Kake. Between June and October, water and mussel samples were collected from four different locations near Kake. Water samples were analyzed for: temperature; salinity; pH; ammonia (as Ammonia Nitrogen); total kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN); nitrate+nitrite; fecal coliform; dissolved metals; and, mercury (Hg). Mussel tissue samples were analyzed for: saxitoxin; total metals; total mercury (Hg); and, nitrate+nitrite.

The project topic and design of this work came from the local leadership in Kake. Fourteen of the fifteen total members of the (paid) field sampling team during 2020 were Kake residents. The water and mussels sampling Quality Assurance Protocol Plan wereapproved by independent reviewers from the Environmental Protection Agency. Data is being archived at the Organized Village of Kake, for use with future comparisons. In these ways, this partnership is able to conduct high-quality climate research while upholding data sovereignty for the tribe and providing workforce development opportunities in rural Alaska.

This work is supported through funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance Program; the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1018914; the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy (ACCAP), a Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, award NA16OAR4310162; the International Arctic Research Center; and donations of time and supplies from Guy Archibald, Clay Good; the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and others.

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