Research

Climate change is affecting Alaska in profound ways that require innovative approaches to research. Research projects supported by the Alaska Climate Science Center often cross several disciplines in order to broadly address ecosystem responses to climate change. The research direction of the Alaska Climate Science Center is determined collaborativly by representatives of federal, state, tribal, and regional organizations. The Alaska Climate Science Center aims to meet high-level climate science priorities while ensuring this science also is pertinent to and addresses management needs. 

The Alaska Climate Science Center works with several partners to support the implementation of research projects that vary widely in scale. Brief research project descriptions are listed below. Select a specific project for more infomation.

Funded Title: 
Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) for Alaska and Northwest Canada
Co-PIs: 
Location: 
This is primarily a modeling project based at UAF. The wetland dynamics component of the project includes a field component and this work is conducted in the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research site in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Duration: 
November 30, 2011 to November 30, 2016

Ongoing climate change throughout Alaska and Northwest Canada has the potential to affect terrestrial ecosystems and the services that they provide to the people of Alaska and the nation. These services include the provisioning of food and fiber by Alaskan ecosystems, the importance of ecosystems to recreation, cultural, and spiritual activities of people in Alaska, and the role Alaska ecosystems play in regulating the climate system. Read more about Integrated Ecosystem Model

Funded Title: 
Assessing the Sensitivity of Alaska’s Coastal Rainforest Ecosystems to Changes in Glacier Runoff
Location: 
Gulf of Alaska, Alaska Science Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast
Duration: 
September 1, 2011 to September 1, 2013

Coastal temperate rainforests along the Gulf of Alaska are experiencing high rates of glacier mass loss, primarily due to changes in climate.  The high sensitivity of glaciers to climate forcing results in strong impacts on freshwater runoff from glacierized basins.  This project will develop methods to quantify runoff from watersheds along the Gulf of Alaska, thereby allowing an assessment of impacts on coastal ecosystems. Read more about Gulf of Alaska Runoff

Funded Title: 
SnowDATA: Snow Datasets for Arctic Terrestrial Applications
Location: 
Alaska
Duration: 
July 15, 2012 to September 30, 2013

Detailed information on snow conditions is critical for understanding a wide range of hydrologic and ecosystem processes, including those related to surface energy and moisture stores and fluxes, along with subsequent impacts on vegetation, insects, mammals, birds, and fish. In Arctic Alaska, however, such snow datasets currently do not exist at the spatial and temporal scales required by end users such as scientists, land managers, and policy makers. Read more about Snow Data for the Arctic

Funded Title: 
Yukon River Basin Project: Ecology, Soil Carbon and Permafrost Experiments
Location: 
Bonanza Creek LTER and University of Alaska Fairbanks
Duration: 
February 19, 2013

Boreal wetlands are important for wildlife and carbon storage and are being affected by multiple environmental stressors including permafrost thaw. In particular, thermokarst bogs resulting from permafrost thaw can result in large feedbacks to global climate if methan (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes are large. In addition, our understanding of the environmental, chemical, and biotic interactions that control greenhouse gas fluxes from thawing permafrost environments is limited, and changes over the course of wetland development. Read more about Yukon River Basin Ecology

Funded Title: 
Implications of Glacier Change in Alaska
Location: 
Juneau, Alaska
Duration: 
October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013

As climate changes, watersheds along the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) are experiencing some of the highest rates of glacier melting on Earth, causing significant societal and ecological impacts on the structure and productivity of marine ecosystems, safety hazards related to glaciers, hydropower generation, and sea-level rise. This project will bring together scientists and land and resource managers at a workshop to establish a cross-disciplinary framework for developing new tools to monitor and anticipate future changes in glacier runoff along the GOA. Read more about Gulf of Alaska Glacier Workshop

Funded Title: 
Linking Climate, Vegetation, and Ungulate Dynamics Across the Alaska Region
Duration: 
February 19, 2013

Several possible mechanisms may be responsible for recent declines in many caribou herds, including the effects of climate change. This project aims to form a research consortium that will integrate two Alaskan Landscape Conservation Cooperative projects and facilitate coordination between leaders and colleagues in the scientific community to address caribou dynamics. Read more about Climate Impacts on Caribou

Funded Title: 
Detection of Climate-Linked Distributional Shifts of Breeding Waterbirds Across North America
Duration: 
September 1, 2011 to October 1, 2014

Extensive and long-term sampling is necessary to identify demographically important changes in the distribution of wildlife populations that may be linked to climate processes. Few survey data streams exist for such an assessment. The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey is one notable exception to this limitation. Read more about Climate Impacts on Waterfowl

Funded Title: 
Integrating Studies of Glacier Dynamics and Estuarine Chemistry in the context of Landscape Change in the Arctic
Duration: 
February 19, 2013

The Jago, Okpilak, and Hulahula rivers in the Arctic are heavily glaciated watersheds that are important for fish and wildlife, subsistence, recreation, and, potentially, resource extraction on the coastal plain. If current glacial loss trends continue, most of the ice in these rivers will disappear in the next 50-100 years. It is important to understand the response of these rivers to climate change and the role of shrinking glaciers in the future dynamics of these rivers and the estuarine environments they influence. Read more about Arctic Glacier Watersheds

Funded Title: 
Western Alaska Coastal Hazards and Stream and Lake Monitoring
Duration: 
February 19, 2013

Coastal hazards, such as storm surges, erosion, and flooding, as well as coastal, stream, and lake processes, are very important factors that influence ecosystems in western Alaska. An analysis of coastal hazards and a monitoring program of streams and lakes are needed to provide a better understanding of how climate change will impact this region. This project will be implemented as a joint effort among the Alaska Climate Science Center (AK CSC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative (WALCC). Read more about Western Alaska Coastal Hazards

Funded Title: 
Validation of Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Storm Surge Model
Duration: 
February 19, 2013

Despite being a critical nesting habitat for many of Alaska’s seabirds and other wildlife, relatively little is known about the western coast of Alaska in relation to the character and impact of Bering Sea storms, the extent and frequency of flooding and its impact on vegetation, wildlife, and water quality, or about the effects of climate change and sea-level rise on this area, its communities, and their infrastructure. Read more about Storm Impacts on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta