Alaska’s North Slope Science Initiative sets the Path for Pathways Student-Employee to attend International Arctic Ocean Acidification Conference in Bergen, Norway

Streets of Bergen, Norway
Street view of Bergen, Norway
Conference Presentation
Conference presenter giving presentation on Biological system transcriptional evaluation process.
As the world’s focus shifts more and more towards the Arctic, the little known BLM-Alaska supported program known as the North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI) has become a major player in Arctic science collaboration. The mission of the NSSI is to improve scientific and regulatory understanding of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems for consideration in the context of resource development activities and climate change. The vision of the NSSI is to identify those data and information needs management agencies and governments will need in the future to develop management scenarios using the best information and mitigation to conserve the environments of an area known to Alaskans as the North Slope (land north of Alaska’s Brooks Range) and the adjacent Arctic Ocean. This knowledge is particularly useful to the BLM as they are the land managers for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) which is the largest tract of public land in the United States at approximately 22.8 million acres.

The NSSI led by its Executive Director, Dr. John Payne, recently took on a role at the global level. NSSI became co-lead of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), representing the United States along with the Kingdom of Denmark/Greenland. The CBMP is an international network of scientists, government agencies, Indigenous organizations and conservation groups working together to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic's living resources. To ensure coordination and integration with related global initiatives, the CBMP is strategically linked to other international conservation programs and research and monitoring initiatives, including the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP).
AMAP, a program group of the Arctic Council, recently held an International Arctic *Ocean Acidification Conference in Bergen, Norway. AMAP extended the invite to the world’s leading climate scientists, social scientists, policy- and decision-makers concerned with environment, fisheries and management of marine ecosystems, stakeholders including northern residents and indigenous peoples, fisheries organizations, and industry.

As a Pathways graduate student and Public Affairs Specialist for the NSSI, I had a very unique opportunity as 1 of 6 representatives from the United States invited to attend the conference. Last year I became a member of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientist (APECS) and was awarded a grant through the association which covered all expenses for the trip.
I moved to Alaska four years ago to pursue my lifelong commitment to Science and the Natural Environment. With my Bachelors of Science degree in Public Relations/communications, and my graduate thesis work at Alaska Pacific University in Outdoor and Environmental Education I am working on a strategy on how to effectively engage local citizens in the Arctic into community based monitoring programs. This is what interested me in the trip to Norway and by cross-applying my social science background with my graduate education and interest in Arctic issues, I had the opportunity to work and help NSSI with its mission of North Slope science coordination.

Although this conference was highly technical consisting of presentations given by mostly chemists and marine biologists, no matter what the topic, they all referred back to the need for better communication between scientist, policy makers, industry, and the people who call the Arctic their home. The linkages between the Arctic and the rest of the world mean that Arctic science has come to play an increasingly prominent role in the public consciousness and the concerns of policy-makers. Policy makers have started moving towards an Ecosystem-Based Management approach which includes the use of information passed down over hundreds and thousands of years from the indigenous people of the Arctic most commonly referred to as Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Indigenous populations have relied on their direct environment for subsistence and autonomy. Over time, they have developed a way to manage and use their resources that ensures their conservation into the future. This is where I feel my research is most fruitful as it explores the social aspects of Arctic villages, knowledge of public land policy, and Western science so that stakeholders can engage and learn from each other.

Story and Photos by: Matthew Vos

* Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the increase of human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, causing them to become more acidic. Changes in ocean chemistry can have extensive direct and indirect effects on organisms and their habitats. One of the most important repercussions of increasing ocean acidity relates to the production of shells and plates which many ocean creatures need to survive.

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