Ikaaġvik Sikukun

"Ice bridges"

Ikaaġvik Sikukun is a research project that couples state-of-the-art geophysical observations from unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with a community-engaged research approach to bridge scientific and indigenous understanding of sea ice change in the Alaska Arctic. Our research team represents a partnership between academic researchers and the Native Village of Kotzebue and includes expertise in ice and ocean physics, marine biology, ethnography and documentary filmmaking. The research will take place in and around the community of Kotzebue, Alaska, which lies within Kotzebue Sound on the coast of southern Chukchi Sea. Sea ice is integral to the way of life for Kotzebue’s indigenous residents who rely on the marine mammals that inhabit the ice pack for food and clothing. Our study plan begins and ends with the involvement of community members to help craft research questions, collect observations and synthesize our findings. Ultimately, the findings will contribute to predictive assessments of the changing cryosphere of Kotzebue Sound, the implications of such change for the ecology and the Iñupiaq way of life that is dependent upon it. Through this approach, we will address key questions concerning the mechanisms and impacts of rapid changes taking place in the Arctic while ensuring that our answers incorporate traditional ways of knowing and are relevant to local needs.

Project Objectives

Our overarching goal is to build bridges between indigenous communities and scientists, we identify the following objectives to guide the development of our science plan, our engagement with community of Kotzebue and the legacy we will leave for others to follow:

    Science
    Improve understanding of the mechanisms, impacts, and implications of sea ice retreat in the Arctic for the global science community and local stakeholders
    Community
    Develop partnerships between scientists and local residents to increase the capacity of local communities to address their research needs
    Legacy
    Document the progress of the project as a potential model for future community-based collaborative science endeavors in the Arctic

Map of Study Area

Map of Study Area

Highlights

Timeline
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Year 1
UAS core payload sensor packaging
UAS core payload integration
UAS science payload refinement
Workshop and outreach planning
Research plan refinements
Ice mass balance
Community intro week
Flight testing
UAS dry-run + workshops
Year 2
Field campaign preparation
Data processing; video documentary editing
Ice mass balance and logistics planning
Community data and knowledge sharing
Ice mass balance
Flight testing
Pre-field meeting
Spring field campaign
Mooring turn-around
National conference
Year 3
Field campaign preparation
Data processing: video documentary editing
Ice mass balance and logistics planning
Community data and knowledge sharing
Ice mass balance
Pre-field meeting
Spring field campaign
Mooring recovery
National conference
Year 4
Data processing and analysis
Preparation of synthesis and outreach materials
Ice mass balance measurements
Sharing of project findings and legacy planning
Data analysis workshop
Prjoect wrap-up: LDEO
Community wrap-up
National conference
Geophysics / UAS activities
Community-based activities
Research team travel to Kotzebue
Research team travel to Tuscon
UAF

Our team

Indigenous Expert Advisory Council

Roswell L. Schaeffer Sr.
Ross Schaeffer Sr

Roswell was born and raised in Kotzebue, Alaska. His parents were John and Annie Schaeffer Sr. He graduated from Copper Valley High School in 1966 and from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1973 with a degree in Sociology with an emphasis on social work. He was a magistrate and acting District Court Judge from 1973 to 1981 and served a 2-year term as NANA President. He also served as Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor for two 3-year terms.

He hunted, trapped and commercially fished throughout these years. His hunting included sea mammals, land mammals and birds all year round. He has spent a lot of time studying the ice conditions of Kotzebue Sound and behavior of all animals he hunted and trapped. He was the Chairman of the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee for 10 years.

He is married to Millie Smith Schaeffer of Kotzebue. They raised 3 children, have 4 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. He taught all his children to hunt within the realm of native spirituality and respect.

He is now retired and spends most of his time hunting, trapping and creating native art.

Cyrus Harris
Cyrus Harris

Cyrus is a lifelong coastal Alaskan, living mostly at Sisualik, about 12 miles across the bay from Kotzebue. He learned from a young age the importance of keeping track of the ice when the weather changed and how and when the ice is taken out. His people rely heavily on caribou, fish, waterfoul, and especially sea mammals. He hunts for bearded seal, ring seal and spotted seal, which requires that he studies and keeps track of the sea ice when it's first forming in fall time, during the winter months for overflow, when land fast ice is created, and when the nearest leads are created for seal hunting.

Cyrus runs Maniilaq Association's Hunter Support Program, which provides fish and game to elders. He also helped to establish a traditional food donation center and food storage facility called the Siġḷauq. Not only does he hunt, gather and fish for his family, but he also supplies this program with a lot of it's subsistence foods, which keeps him very active in activities across Kotzebue Sound throughout the year by boat, dog team, and snow-machine.

He is also involved in the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group, the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska, and with Alaska Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

Robert (Bobby) Schaeffer
Bobby Schaeffer

Robert was born in Kotzebue, 1949, and has lived in and near Kotzebue his entire life. From a young age, he learned about the environment from his dad and other elders. He grew up hunting, fishing and trapping. He has spent a lot of time on the waters and ice of Kotzebue Sound, fishing commercially and observing the fish, animals and sea ice physics. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 25 gross ton masters license. He has been involved with marine-based research with the Native Village of Kotzebue for many years and has conctracted under State, Federal, and private marine mapping and other oceanography research projects. He is currently Chairman for the Native Village of Kotzebue Tribal Council.

John Goodwin
John Goodwin

John is an Alaska Native hunter who has lived in the Kotzebue area for more than 50 years and has spent his entire life learning about the ocean and the marine mammals of the Kotzebue Sound area. He is familiar with currents, weather conditions, ice conditions, and water depths in Kotzebue Sound. John is an experienced commercial salmon fisherman and marine mammal hunter. John holds a U.S. Coast Guard 25 gross ton masters License. He served as Chairman of the Alaska Ice Seal Committee from 2008-2017 and participated in catching and tagging bearded, spotted and ringed seals in Kotzebue Sound 2004-2015, and has participated in various Kotzebue Sound ecology projects since 2002 with the Native Village of Kotzebue.

Project Investigators

Christopher J. Zappa
Chris Zappa

Chris' website
Chris is a Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He grew up north of Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Columbia University as an undergraduate and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1992. He received his PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle in Oceanography in 1999 and completed his Postdoctoral Scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 2003.

Chris has been a leader in the field of air-sea-ice interaction since 1992 with extensive in situ, shipborne, surface-drifter, and manned and unmanned airborne observational-based expertise.

He is dedicated to understanding the processes that affect ice-ocean-atmosphere interaction and their boundary layers. His focus includes coupled air-sea-ice processes within the marginal ice zones, wave dynamics and wave breaking, the effect of near-surface turbulence on heat, mass, and momentum transport, airborne infrared, multispectral visible, and polarimetric remote sensing, upper-ocean processes, polar ocean processes, coastal and estuarine dynamics.

Andy Mahoney
Andy Mahoney

Andy is a Research Assistant Professor Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As the leader of the Geophysical Institute’s sea ice research group, Andy is actively engaged at the forefront of scientific efforts to better understand sea ice in the Polar Regions. His research interests are broad and interdisciplinary and include the study of sea ice in the context of its role in the global climate system, as a habitat for marine mammals, as an engineering constraint for maritime activities and its impact on other human activities in the Arctic.

Andy is known for his work with Arctic communities and efforts to integrate indingenous knowledge into polar research. He also has extensive field experience on sea ice and during the past 17+ years he has travelled widely throughout the Arctic, studying sea ice on foot, by dogsled, by air and from icebreakers. He has also wintered-over in Antarctica to study sea ice growth processes unique to the southern hemisphere. Andy is also an expert in polar remote sensing, in particular the use of radar to study sea ice motion and deformation.

Alex Whiting
Alex Whiting

Alex developed the Native Village of Kotzebue’s Environmental Program in 1997 and has directed the program as the Environmental Specialist since. A large part of the focus has been researching the ecology of Kotzebue Sound and integrating Indigenous Knowledge and local experts into scientific research projects. Over 120 tribal members have participated in some aspect of tribally led, or cooperative research efforts. The Program is well known for developing community-based seal research projects, including being the first to successfully satellite tag bearded seals in Alaska.

Alex is a Co-Investigator for the Ikaaġvik Sikukun project and will participate in all planning and analysis activities, while assisting with local logistics of identifying and hiring local contract support and other related needs, facilitate Kotzebue based meetings/workshops, coordinate the involvement of the local Advisory Committee and the inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge of sea ice uses and the relationship local people have with sea ice and the ecological role it plays, and act as a liaison for the tribal community and Tribal Council to inform them of the project and provide frequent updates as the project progresses.

Sarah Betcher
Sarah Betcher

Sarah's website
Sarah is an award winning documentary filmmaker and owner of Farthest North Films, a company specializing in films that communicate across cultures, especially showcasing indigenous traditions. Her ethnographic interests were sparked by her experience living in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific as a young child. She has traveled extensively around the world as an adult learning how indigenous people utilize local resources for food, medicine and lifestyle products.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in Conservation Ecology and Master’s degree in Cross-Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with a focus on ethnographic film and Alaska Native Studies.

Since 2005, Sarah has been living as an ethnographic filmmaker and naturalist guide across many regions of Alaska. She has spent extensive time filming in rural Alaska producing many short films, some of which can be seen on her website at www.farthestnorthfilms.com. Sarah, also known by her Inupiaq name Miiyuk, is honored to be the filmmaker for the Ikaaġvik Sikukun project. Her community-based film project approach is to form a bridge of communication between local indigenous knowledge with western science research.

Co-Project Investigators

Ajit Subramaniam
Ajit Subramanian

Ajit is a biological oceanographer who uses remote sensing, bio- optics, Geographical Information Systems, to better understand how the marine ecosystem works and can be managed. Specifically, he works on understanding the diversity and productivity of phytoplankton: why does a particular phytoplankton species bloom where it does, the factors that lead to its demise, the consequences of such blooms, and how these might change in the future as a consequence of anthropogenic activity and climate change. He has worked with remote sensing data for more than 20 years and has developed algorithms for detection of cyanobacterial blooms.

Ajit is a Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, located in Palisades, New York. Ajit earned his Ph.D. in Coastal Oceanography and M.S. in Marine Environmental Science from SUNY, Stony Brook. He has a Bachelors degree in Physics from The American College in India.

Donna Hauser
Donna Hauser

Donna's website

Donna is a spatial marine ecologist whose research has examined the habitat use of marine mammals throughout the Arctic and the northeast Pacific since 2002. Having grown up in Anchorage, Alaska, her research is firmly rooted in Alaska and the marine mammals that are critical ecosystem components as well as traditional cultural and subsistence resources across the state. The overarching goals of her research are to quantify the distribution, movement, and behavioral patterns and processes of marine mammals in dynamic marine ecosystems, particularly within the context of climate-driven alterations.She is experienced in using diverse data sources, often applying tools such as telemetry and remote sensing in geographic information systems.

As a researcher at the International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks she pursues interdisciplinary and collaborative research in Alaskan marine ecology. Several of her active projects focus on the vulnerability and responses of Arctic marine mammals to changing environmental conditions, as well as co-production of research with coastal communities and indigenous experts. Donna also supports community-based science throughout coastal Arctic Alaska as the Science Lead of the Alaska Arctic Observatory & Knowledge Hub.

Researchers

Scott Brown
Scott Brown

Scott is an electronics and systems engineer who works with Dr. Christopher Zappa to perform both traditional and cutting-edge measurements from UAVs. For the last 6 years and across 3 different projects, he and a small team of engineers have evolved the design, construction, and operation of multiple UAV science payloads based on the overarching goals coordinated by Dr. Zappa. These goals inform a wide breadth of ocean surface sciences, from the physics of heat and gas transfer to the varying colors produced by biological and chemical processes. Scott is excited and grateful to have the opportunity to travel to Kotzebue and to experience its people and community, and it is his hope that his expertise can contribute to the community in meaningful ways.

Nathan Laxague
Nathan Laxague

Nathan is a post-doctoral research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He was raised in Maine and has lived by the coast his entire life, captivated by the sea. Nathan received his Ph.D. in Applied Marine Physics from the University of Miami in December of 2016. His graduate research was centered around ocean surface gravity-capillary waves (wavelengths of order one centimeter) and the role they play in mediating physical air-sea interaction. In the course of this work, he was able to spend a good amount of time at sea in the Gulf of Mexico observing near-surface material transport patterns, effort which was primarily motivated by the interest in understanding the transport of spilled oil. He is very excited to apply his understanding of air-sea interaction physics towards describing sea ice breakup, especially through the unique lens that Ikaaġvik Sikukun provides.

Kate Turner
Kate Turner

Kate is from the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, she has moved to Alaska to work on this project as a PhD student of sea ice geophysics under Andy Mahoney. After her undergraduate studies, she took a break from academic work to explore the world, and eventually find her way to Alaska. She is excited to learn more about how scientists and communities can work together. From a geophysics perspective, she is interested in the freshwater influence of the Noatak and Kobuk rivers on sea ice growth, melt and break up.

Kate’s academic background is in physics, with a BS from the University of Otago, and Honors degree from the Victoria University of Wellington. Prior to coming to Alaska, she worked in Aotearoa in both the energy industry, and in public engagement for climate change adaptation. She has come to the US on a Fulbright New Zealand Graduate Award.

Carson Witte
Carson Witte

Carson is a Field Engineer in Dr. Christopher Zappa’s OASIS (Observatory for Air-Sea Interaction Studies) lab. He has had the privilege of spending several different weeks in Kotzebue over the past year, deploying oceanographic and atmospheric monitoring systems and making many new friends along the way. He did his undergraduate in Physics at Pomona College, and will be transitioning to working as a grad student in the lab this coming fall.

Tej Dhakal
Tej Dhakal

Tej is an Electronics Engineer at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

Latitude Engineering Inc.

Aaron Farber
Aaron Farber

Aaron has spent the last four years working on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) focusing on investigating and integrating new sensor packages for aerial deployment. His work with in situ lab-on-a-chip chemical sensing led to an EPA grant focusing on tracking greenhouse gasses from a UAV. Aaron holds a patent on a gamma-ray imaging system he developed during his Ph.D. program and spent several years working in the University of Arizona's Nuclear Reactor Lab (NRL) earning his Reactor Operator license and, as Reactor Supervisor, was provided the unique experience of overseeing and managing the decommissioning of the 52-year- old TRIGA reactor, one of the oldest operating reactors in the world. His varied academic background, in conjunction with expertise as a certified flight instructor provides a robust experiential portfolio from which to work. His flight experience has also enabled him to contribute significant expertise in manned flight operations and general aeronautical knowledge.

Beyond work, Aaron enjoys traveling, scuba diving, photography and hiking with his wife Leanne and baby son, Jude and is excited to be working on this project with his undergraduate alma mater, Columbia University.

Cory Rosene
Cory Rosene

Cory came to Latitude in 2013 with a background in small business management and custom bicycle fabrication. He is highly skilled in hand fabrication, welding and machining and proficient in composites, wiring, computer aided design and manufacturing, and overall assembly of unmanned aircraft. His attention to detail and meticulous approach have provided critical design and fabrication feedback for all aircraft he helps create. Cory’s expertise in the construction and operation of Hybrid Quadrotor systems has helped bring the HQ-40 aircraft from a prototype to a production aircraft model. He currently helps direct the production of the HQ-40 aircraft and related equipment, as well as assisting with R&D efforts within Latitude. Cory holds a private pilot’s license and enjoys cycling and spending time with his wife, Amy.

Collaborators

Jessie Lindsay
Jessie Lindsay

Jessie is a Master’s student at the University of Washington in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS), where she is advised by Kristin Laidre. She is supported by a SAFS Fellowship and an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Fellowship. Jessie is broadly interested in climate impacts on wildlife and communities, particularly at the poles where change is occurring most rapidly. Her thesis research as part of Ikaaġvik Sikukun will focus on the relationship between ringed seal lairs and habitat characteristics such as snow depth in the context of Arctic climate change. Jessie graduated from the University of Montana in 2015 with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and minors in Mathematics and Climate Change Studies. For her undergraduate research, she used playback experiments to study the acoustic mimicry of bird alarm calls in walnut sphinx caterpillars.

Peter Boveng
Peter Boveng

Peter is the leader of the Polar Ecosystems Program at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Marine Mammal Laboratory. The program conducts monitoring and research on harbor seals and ice-associated (ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon) seals in Alaska. His primary research interests are in the estimation of population abundance, trends, and in satellite telemetry studies of habitat use, and foraging behavior. He has been involved for the past two decades in collaborations with Alaska Native organizations in support of co-management agreements between those organizations and NOAA Fisheries for management of subsistence uses of seals. Peter’s team has worked on several seal research projects in the Kotzebue community, including aerial surveys and satellite tagging studies.

Peter joined NOAA in 1986. He received Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in biology from Montana State University and a B.A. from Cornell University. His field research on ice-associated polar seals has taken him from 78 degrees South to 71 degrees North latitude. After focusing on Antarctic seals and seabirds from 1989 to 1995, he has incorporated sub-Arctic and Arctic seals into a variety of ongoing projects in both polar regions.

Kristin Laidre
Kristin Laidre

Kristin is a Principal Scientist at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington working on problems of applied animal ecology in the Arctic. She is an Associate Professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and is partially supported by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk, Greenland. She was named a Pew Marine Conservation fellow in 2017. Kristin’s research is focused on broad questions about Arctic marine mammals. Her research is field-based, largely empirical, and focuses on using quantitative data on individual movements, foraging behavior, and life history to unite behavioral, population, and evolutionary ecology. Her interests include wildlife conservation and management, scaling questions in ecology, and the application of Geographic Information Systems to spatial data. She is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group and the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group. She has participated in over 40 field expeditions in Greenland and authored or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 3 books on high-latitude marine mammals.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)


Latitude Engineering’s HQ-90B aircraft represents a giant leap in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) capability, enabling long-endurance missions with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and optimized to perform in remote locations such as Alaska’s Arctic coastal communities. The Hybrid Quadrotor (HQ) technology offers the efficiency, speed, and range of a normal fixed- wing aircraft with no need for a runway or other complex launch and recovery equipment. The HQ-90B has a cruising speed of 40 knots, with a 15-hour endurance carrying a nominal 15-lb payload. The HQ-90B can reach 14,000 feet, has a wingspan of 185 inches and weighs 115 lb. The aircraft features a swappable nose cone for holding a variety of payloads that can be switched out quickly. Compared to pure multi-rotors, HQ technology is more cost effective, more reliable, has higher top speed, more endurance, more wind tolerance, and can cover more ground. Compared to fixed wing aircraft, HQ technology operates from more locations and from more types of platforms.

Data



Coming soon

Funding

Moore Foundation

Logistics support

FWS

Contact Us


Please email ikaagvik_all_pis@lists.ldeo.columbia.edu for all questions pertaining to the project.