Local social and ecological presentation planned

The mission of the National Science Foundation’s experimental program to stimulate competitive research (EPSCor) is to help the NSF reach its goal to strengthen research and education in science and engineering throughout the United States.

The organization is engaged in the five-year, place-based Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments alaska.edu/epscor/focus (Alaska ACE) project to examine the mechanisms by which communities adapt to environmental and social change. The interdisciplinary effort seeks to increase Alaska’s research capacity to understand changing environments in order to more effectively respond.

The goal of the project is to produce long-term benefits for Alaska including development of tools that can be used by decision-makers to assist adaptive responses and to create a platform for ongoing studies of adaptation in the North. The project hopes to build research capacity at small and rural UA campuses and contribute hydrological data useful to researchers, watershed managers and residents. Further goals are development of a data portal providing geospatial, scientific and social/demographic data for use by researchers and citizens. There is also an educational and workforce development component to ACE that seeks to increase interest and expertise in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

The initiative is organized into three regional test cases based at University of Alaska campuses. The south central test case is based at the University of Alaska Anchorage, including KPC’s Kenai River Campus.

The local test case examines Kenai River watershed research. The area is subject to multiple drivers of change, including global/regional temperature and precipitation changes. It also examines salmon population fluctuations, a recent tourism downturn, recreational pressure from Anchorage, forest fire dynamics, shrinking wetlands and the resulting successional changes that occur.

Hydrological changes in the area include river discharge, water temperature, and sedimentation, while land cover changes include urbanization, resource extraction, infrastructure, drying wetlands, and forest fires. These multiple interacting factors form the basis of a ‘messy’ social-ecological system and necessitate response and adaptation by communities in the watershed.

The goals of the test case are to measure hydrological, landscape and associated social changes on the Kenai Peninsula. Another important goal is to measure societal impacts of the changes and to identify the factors contributing to adaptive capacity as a response to these changes and consequences.

The Alaska ACE project will be presenting a local outreach event to area stakeholders including college employees and the general public, at 6 p.m. on Oct. 16 in KRC’s McLane Commons. There will be a series of presentations given by local experts, including the following confirmed to participate:

Jim Powell will talk about human dimensions and will share what he has found after conducting focus groups in the Kenai area, looking at decision-making in regards to the health of the Kenai River.

Molly McCarthy will speak about aquatic ecology and will discuss her work coring two lakes in the Kenai Watershed and studying 2,000 years’ worth of salmon population.

Brett Wells will present information on hydrology and speak to his work monitoring sites across the Kenai River and sharing the results he has seen so far.

The project coordinators invite the public to explore collected data and provide feedback on developed products. The community is also encouraged to participate in project surveys and to share any traditional knowledge they might have. For more information and to review current initiatives and other scheduled activities visitalaska.edu/epscor.

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