Science Co-Production for the Next 5 Years

science vision of the AK CASC

The uncertainty in the size and pace of the myriad complex biophysical changes cascading through Alaska’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems present unique challenges to the agencies tasked with managing the natural and cultural resources that Alaska's communities rely on.

Together with our research partners, we produce actionable science that informs Alaska resource management decisions. This work includes downscaling, ecosystem modeling, and glacier dynamics.

In the current hosting agreement of the AK CASC, we will further refine this co-production model by identifying research priorities and building the necessary capacity and expertise.

We will deliver an integrated science program that facilitates co-production of actionable science and builds the human capital required to do this well. The University of Alaska Fairbanks (our host institution) will facilitate use-inspired science and build a framework that will:

  1. solicit partners for and facilitate the co-production process for research activities
  2. build capacity by providing co-production training and experience for scientists (including early career fellows) and managers
  3. strategically develop products to communicate science to specific users and audiences

Two-phase implementation strategy

In Phase 1 we will develop and test our co-production approach via five pilot projects that will focus on needs expressed throughout our research and co-production partnerships. Phase 2 projects will be determined through the co-production process.

Phase I Projects

permafrost polygons from above Arctic and Western Alaska Landscape Change Projects
Aug 2018

Climate change is placing important shorebird and waterfowl habitat at risk in arctic and western Alaska. The low-lying landscape of the Alaska Arctic Coastal Plan (ACP) and the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) may undergo massive changes due to permafrost degradation in a warming climate.
To conserve the important ecological services that the plant and wildlife communities of the ACP and YKD serve, management strategies must be based on both current landscape conditions and projected changes. The AK CASC will further efforts initiated by the Arctic and Western Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and the Integrated Ecosystem Modeling projects to better understand how vulnerable this habitat is to future warming and which areas are most susceptible to change.
The team will create high resolution landcover maps of the region and climate scenario simulation models to aid resource managers and decision makers in planning for the future.

aerial image of suicide basin

Suicide Basin, facing northeast into the basin. 

Glacier Outburst Flood Modeling
Jan 2020

In collaboration with the City and Borough of Juneau, the USGS Alaska Science Center, NOAA, and University of Alaska Southeast, the AK CASC is working to create a model to forecast the timing and size of outburst flood events at a glacier-dammed lake on the Mendenhall Glacier. Since 2011, the glacier-dammed lake at Suicide Basin has released annual flood events impacting homes and infrastructure in Mendenhall Valley, Juneau’s most heavily populated neighborhood. Using monitoring equipment such as time-lapse cameras and water level gages that provide real-time information on the status of the basin, researchers will develop an outburst flood forecasting tool to improve the ability of city managers to prepare for outburst floods, as well as provide guidance to other Alaska communities that experience glacier lake outburst floods.

valley and mountains in the fall Long Term Climate Monitoring
Aug 2018

State and federal agencies manage over 300 million acres of land in Alaska. Making land management decisions in a changing climate requires high resolution long term climate data over this vast area of land. The AK CASC will work with resource managers from the National Park Service climate monitoring network to evaluate existing climate monitoring efforts, determine areas of significant change or high uncertainty, and select areas to focus new monitoring efforts. To do this, researchers will compare a number of existing climate data products and models with current climate information to create maps highlighting areas to concentrate monitoring efforts on, as well as suggest additional environmental variables to monitor and new monitoring techniques.

a stream flows through temperate rainforest Streamflow Models in Southeast Alaska
Aug 2018

Stream dynamics in the dramatic topography of Southeast Alaska are expected to shift over time with changes in climate. Resource managers and city planners need finer scale, more accurate models that predict changes in flow for small, ungaged watersheds in order to make important infrastructure planning decisions. The AK CASC will work closely with agency partners to create predictive stream discharge models for Southeast Alaska watersheds, and to deliver watershed-scale information in a user-friendly system. Projections of peak flow are imperative for culvert and bridge engineering, while models showing seasonal variation and low flows may have implications for hydropower and fish habitat restoration.

Smoke from a wildfire in Alaska Wildfire Projections in Interior Alaska
Aug 2018

As warming temperatures and lessening snowpack lead to drier conditions in Interior Alaska, fire managers increasingly need tools to forecast wildfire trends at seasonal and yearly intervals. In order to plan for resource allocation and hiring decisions, managers need better information on lightning ignition risk and fire weather indices, which predict the fire danger of an area, to better understand trends in widespread fire outbreaks over long and short term time scales. To address these needs, the AK CASC will work with the BLM Alaska Fire Service, NOAA, and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to select seasonal fire weather indices, use historic fire events to model future fire risk, and produce long term fire weather forecasts that take into account high resolution climate projections.