Center for Global Change Student Grant Competition

ACCAP’s John Walsh served on the team that reviewed proposals for the 2015 Center for Global Change (CGC) student grant competition at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

CGC annually funds students through a variety of sources and funding agencies (federal and state) as well as University of Alaska general funds. ACCAP agreed to provide funding for two CGC student projects. The two projects align with the greater ACCAP mission and foci.

One project focused on the subsistence halibut fishery in Southeast Alaska. It assessed long-term trends in subsistence halibut harvest and evaluated the mechanisms driving changes in harvest. The other project investigated the morphology of the Beaufort Sea coastline during the last interglacial period as a potential historical analog for predicted future sea level change.

Projects began in July of 2015 and continued through the 2015/2016 academic year.

Evaluating behavioral adaptations of subsistence halibut harvesters to environmental and regulatory changes in Southeast Alaska

Maggie Chan, PhD Candidate, University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
This research examines how subsistence harvesters adapt to a combination of environmental and regulatory changes using the case study of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) in Southeast Alaska. Halibut populations have experienced recent changes in abundance and distribution, resulting in concerns over availability for local harvesters. Yet, halibut is an integral part of the portfolio of species that harvesters rely on in coastal communities.

In addition to biological changes to halibut populations, a regulation in 2003 changed subsistence halibut from following sport guidelines to more liberal subsistence guidelines, resulting in increases in gear choices and harvest limits. Even though guidelines became more liberal, there has been a substantial decrease in participation rates and harvest amounts of subsistence halibut, with little understanding of the mechanisms driving these downward trends. Additionally, there is little long-term information on subsistence catches prior to 2003.

This interdisciplinary project uses interviews with harvesters to assess long-term trends in subsistence halibut harvest and evaluate the mechanisms driving changes in harvest. The results of this project will reveal how subsistence harvesters have adapted to changes in environmental availability and regulatory structure, a crucial step in understanding how continued global change will shape Alaska’s coastal communities.

How will climate change impact the morphology of the Beaufort Sea coastline?

Louise Farquharson: PhD student in Quaternary Geology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Climate change is having large impacts on Arctic coasts where permafrost-affected shorelines and sea ice-sensitive biota now experience longer ice-free seasons and heightened wave regimes. How the geomorphology and biota of the Beaufort Sea coast will respond to declining sea ice cover and warmer air temperatures is poorly understood.

Here I propose to use the last interglacial (~ 120 ka), a period when the Arctic Ocean was apparently largely ice free in summer, as an analogue for future conditions. An extensive system of barrier islands and lagoons existed along the Beaufort Sea coast during the last interglacial, and these deposits now lie several meters above sea level.

I will conduct high-resolution sedimentological analysis at five sites to reconstruct coastal geomorphology and establish a high-resolution chronology based on optically simulated luminescence (OSL) dates. These new dates will for the first time link environmental shifts on the Beaufort Sea coast to global sea level, ice sheet extent, and paleoclimate. Results from this study will help predict coastal changes along the Beaufort Sea coast and assist in the management of both biological and coastal resources.