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Current Projects

Following is the list of continuing projects receiving funding through the Shared Beringian Heritage Program. No new projects were solicited for 2011. Since project proposals can be of one to three years' duration, continuing projects usually are receiving funding in addition to projects selected that year. For more detailed information on the continuing projects, including the proposal go to Find a Project and click on the year in which the project was selected for funding.

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New Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2015

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Beringia Seabird Youth Network

Partner: Northern Research Technical Assistance Center (NORTAC)
Contact: Priscilla Wohl - NORTAC; Anne Harding - Principal Coordinator

  • Commander Island School District
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • St. George Institute
  • St. George Traditional Council
  • Kamchatka Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography
  • Aleut Traditional Council
  • Pribilof School District

Location: St. Paul, Pribilof Islands; Nikolskoye, Commander Islands
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $48,912 in 2015; $43,134 in 2016; $61,984 in 2017

This youth exchange project will focus on developing ties between students and teachers in the Pribilof (US) and Commander (Russia) Islands through the study of seabirds that are common to both regions. The project will develop a joint curriculum in both English and Russian, establish active and regular pen-pal relationships, and bring a group of Russian students and teachers to a weeklong "Island Seabird Youth Camp" during the summer of 2017. The project is funded for 3 years (2015-2017).


Novelty in a Predator-Prey System Facilitated by Humans and Climate: Polar Bears, Grizzly Bears and Muskoxen

Partner: University of Montana (1st year) & Colorado State University (2nd & 3rd year)
Contact: Joel Berger, Professor and Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation

  • Dr. Alexander Gruzdev, Director, Wrangel Island Zapovednik
  • Yelizaveta Protas - Biologist, translator, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Blake Lowrey - PhD student; Ecology Department, Montana State University
  • Wibke Peters - PhD student; Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana
  • Ganchimeg Jamiyansuren Wingard; Director, Mongolian Program and Wildlife Biologist; Denver Zoological Foundation (Denver Zoo)

Location: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve; Cape Krusenstern National Monument; Wrangel Island Zapovednik
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $41,196 in 2015; $51,178 in 2016; $60,783 in 2017

This project will test hypotheses about how muskoxen respond to grizzly and polar bears by using comparative analyses across the Beringia region. This project, in cooperation with partners in Russia, expands upon an existing Beringia project with the University of Montana and will include field work in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument in the United States and on Wrangel Island Zapovednik in Russia. It will capitalize on three key opportunities developed during the past 7 years to enhance and inspire an understanding of Beringia systems: 1) expanding infrastructure, trust, and shared expertise, that involves local citizens and scientists within and beyond protected areas in both Chukotka and Alaska; 2) the novelty of a challenging predator-prey system with bears (polar and grizzly); and 3) assessment of effects from harvest-based manipulations of adult sex ratios, and discovery of pre-conditions leading to additional human-muskoxen conflicts. The common thread here is predator-prey interactions. If it can be first understood why and how the ecology of muskoxen changes, expected outcomes of management actions can be amplified to improve conservation. The project is funded for 3 years (2015-2017).


Sivungam Nevngallgha Quteghllagmun (Savoonga's Bond & Connection to the Great Land (Chukotka)

Partner: Native Village of Savoonga
Contact: John and Arlene Waghiyi

  • Native Village of New Chaplino
  • Village of Providenya
  • Village of Uelen
  • Village of Sireniki

Location: Savoonga, Gambell; New Chaplino, Uelen, Sireniki, Providenya, Chukotka
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $50,000 in 2016 (project funding delayed one year); $50,000 in 2017; $50,000 in 2018

The aim of this project is to strengthen ties and celebrate the shared cultural traditions and familial ties between Savoonga, on St. Lawrence Island, and several Siberian Yupik villages in Chukotka. The community is planning a large dance festival and at least one cultural exchange with the communities in Chukotka, as well as shared activities during Savoonga's Centennial Celebration in 2016. In addition, a sewing workshop designed to share traditional sewing techniques and customary sewing materials will help to preserve, record, and pass along shared cultural traditions. The project is funded for 3 years (2016-2018) and its beginning has been postponed till fiscal year 2016.


Traditional Knowledge of the Native People of Chukotka About Pacific Walrus and Dialogue Across the Bering Strait on Walrus-Related Concerns

Partner: Eskimo Walrus Commission, Kawerak, Inc.
Contact: Vera Metcalf, Executive Director

  • Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka

Location: Nome, Alaska; Providenya, Chukotka
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $36,625 in 2015; $32,909 in 2016; $47,625 in 2017

This project would allow for dialogue to occur between walrus hunters, researchers, and managers from Alaska and Chukotka on issues affecting the Pacific Walrus population, such as climate change, disappearing sea ice, the rapid changes in weather, and increased shipping traffic in the Bering Strait region. This discussion would result in recommendations and plans of action from stakeholders on how to address these concerns. Participation in these discussions would occur during workshops held in Nome and Chukotka, as well as through outreach efforts to walrus-dependent communities throughout the Bering Strait to solicit feedback on the issues at hand.

The project will also focus on the collection of traditional knowledge of walrus, and will look at the similarities and differences between regional understandings. As part of this effort to preserve subsistence traditions and ancestral knowledge, the participants will produce a Chukchi/Yupik/Russian/English walrus dictionary. The project is funded for 3 years (2015-2017).


Translation of Chukchi Warfare: Mid-17th - Beginning of the 20th Century by Alexander K. Nefëdkin into English

Partner: Richard Bland and Associates
Contact: Richard Bland

Location: Chukotka
Duration: 1 year
Funding: $9,042 in 2015

The book, Chukchi Warfare: Mid-17th-Beginning of the 20th Century, by Dr. Alexander K. Nefëdkin (Faculty of History Dept, St. Petersburg State University, Russia), examines the various sides of Chukchi warfare to the full extent known based on written and other sources for the period beginning in the second half of the 17th century, when the Chukchi first clashed with the Siberian Cossacks, up to the beginning of the 20th century, when clashes still occurred based on revenge. Information on neighboring peoples is drawn in-the Asiatic and American Eskimos, the Koryak, and the Russians - which permits a better understanding of the features of Chukchi warfare. The book is the first historiographical work dedicated to Chukchi warfare and an important source of valuable ethnographical and historical information. The funding will cover the translation costs, proofreading, editing, and layout of a final manuscript. The National Park Service expects to print the document in 2016.


Continuing Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2014

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Prehistoric Obsidian Transport and Human Interactions Across the Bering Strait

Partner: University of Georgia / North-East Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences/ National Park Service
Contact: Jeff Rasic, National Park Service

  • Sergei Slobodin, Northeast Interdisciplinary Science Research Institute Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Jeff Speakman, Center for Applied Isotope Studies, University of Georgia

Location: Various locations in Alaska, USA, and Magadan, Russia
Duration: 2 years
Funding: $42,821 in 2014; $12,933 in 2015

The project involves a multidisciplinary, international collaboration among scientists from the University of Georgia, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and National Park Service. The primary objectives of this research are: (1) to study prehistoric inter- and intra-regional patterns of mobility, trade, exchange, resource exploitation, and cultural interaction within Eastern and Western Beringia (i.e., northeast Russia and Alaska) using obsidian as a proxy; (2) to facilitate a better understanding of the prehistory of Eastern and Western Beringia-areas that are typically viewed from singular perspectives depending on which side of the Bering Strait one happens to work; and (3) develop a research agenda and foster collaborations between US and Russian colleagues that will facilitate the exchange of ideas and research findings. During the first year Jeff Rasic and Jeff Speakman traveled to Magadan, Russia to analyze 1,000 obsidian artifacts curated at the Northeastern Interdisciplinary Research Institute with the help of portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF). The second year is dedicated to: (1) establishing a comprehensive database of new compositional analytical data for obsidian artifacts from Eastern and Western Beringia; and (2) correlating the geochemical data from archaeological assemblages with sources and identify patterns of migration and exchange in northeast Russia and Alaska.


Continuing Project Funded in Fiscal Year 2013

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Beringian Messenger Network

Partner: Institute of the North
Contact: Nils Andreasson, Managing Director, Institute of the North

  • Chukotka Reindeer Herders Association
  • Chukotka Association of Marine Mammal Hunters (ChAZTO)
  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • University of Alaska, Anchorage

Location: Various locations in Alaska and Chukotka
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $112,055 in 2013; $46,713 in 2014; $54,000 in 2015

Over the first two years of this project the Institute of the North developed a Bering Strait (Beringian) Messenger Network that expands and strengthens the connections within the Beringia region. As an international program that incorporates local concerns, the Shared Beringian Heritage Program faces obstacles in sustaining open and direct lines of communication with regional, national, and international partners. Developing and strengthening effective communication systems is the hallmark of this program, beginning at the community level and growing to incorporate regional and cross-border components. The Beringian Messenger Network emphasizes the value of traditional knowledge, respect for elders, and a commitment to youth and emerging leaders, while leveraging interest in the Arctic. These components of the program augment existing efforts by the Beringia Program to open and maintain good communication with cooperators. The Beringian Messenger Network created a facilitative framework to the existing communication systems, while fostering inter- and intra-community, as well as cross-border, relationships. One of the hallmarks of the project is the monthly international teleconferences that are hosted by Institute of the North. Over the past two years these have been very well-attended, with 90 people from across the world calling in during the first teleconference to discuss reindeer herding in the arctic. The connections are already being made, and herders in Alaska and Chukotka were able to get in contact with each other to discuss a possibility of a cooperative project. Topics covered in these teleconference discussions are suggested by the participants and are of great importance to the region. They cover a broad range of issues including education, health, language preservation, reindeer herding, climate change, and sustainable development in the Arctic. Participation in the teleconferences is open to the public and toll free numbers are provided. If you would like to participate you can view a schedule of upcoming Messenger Network teleconferences here.

If you've missed a teleconference of interest you can listen to it here.

The May 2014 - May 2015 Bering Strait Messenger Network Report is available here.


Diomede Island Family Reunification Visit

Partner: The Native Village of Diomede
Contact: Frances Ozenna, Tribal Coordinator; Robert Soolook, Tribal Council President, the Native Village of Diomede

  • Tandy and Ken Wallack, Circumpolar Expeditions
Location: Native Village of Little Diomede, Alaska; Chukotka, Russia
Duration: 2 years
Funding: $42,094 in 2013; $40,435 in 2015

The primary goal of this project is to research, track, and re-establish family ties between the people of Little Diomede and their (relocated) relatives in Chukotka, Far East Russia. These relatives are descended from the previous inhabitants of Big Diomede Island, but were forced to relocate during the Soviet period. A further goal is to convene one or more re-unification visits that would bring these family members together on Little Diomede for the first time. For centuries residents travelled freely between the continents, and were considered one ethnic group. The designation of the boundary between the United States and Russia after the Alaska purchase in 1867 politically separated the inhabitants of Little Diomede and Big Diomede. Later trade and travel restrictions brought a stop to this back-and-forth travel between Alaska and Chukotka. During the Soviet times the entire native population of Big Diomede was relocated to the Russian mainland, and Big Diomede became a military base. Since then, contact between people - family members - has been rare and very limited. As elders on both sides of the Bering Strait age and die, the ties and shared cultural heritage between the Native Village of Diomede (NVD) and their relatives in Chukotka diminish. The NVD wanted to find a means to renew family ties through face-to-face contacts, which is especially important for cultural preservation, traditional knowledge, and youth on both sides of the Bering Strait. To accomplish this, NVD and their partner Circumpolar Expeditions have begun a comprehensive search through existing records of birth, death, residency and other indicators of heritage. Ken and Tandy Wallack of Circumpolar Expeditions possess the necessary expertise to assist with the project and are coordinating and carrying out the project activities and gathering relevant information from existing records and archives in the US and Russia for the NVD. Workshops were held in Nome in order to engage the community in this effort, and anyone with knowledge of long-lost relatives from Russia was encouraged to talk to the coordinators. Interviews and the unwritten knowledge of family heritage are also an essential part of the process, as many of the family ties can be interpreted from stories passed down through generations, rather than in an archive. Information and data from Chukotka will also be included depending on availability and accessibility. The project has concluded most of their first year activities, however the Chukotka field trip has been postponed into the second year. The project is expected to resume its activities continuing gathering information and expanding the database in the fall of 2015.


Traditional Arctic Sports and Games

Partner: Go North! Adventure Learning
Contact: Mille Porsild, Executive Director, GoNorth! Adventure Learning

  • Committee of Sports and Tourism, Irina Ryabukhina, Head
  • Chukotka Science Support Group
  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Department of Anthropology, Dr. Sveta Yamin-Pasternak
Location: Anadyr, New Chaplino, and Lorino, Chukotka; Anchorage and Nome, Alaska
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $30,000 in 2013; $30,000 in 2014; $30,000 in 2015

Traditional sports and games are expressions of indigenous ways of life and a powerful measure to create a bridge between cultures and people. The project "Traditional Beringian Sports and Games" is an adventure learning program to promote, preserve and encourage Beringia’s traditional sports and games as a priceless part of Beringia’s cultural heritage. Each winter through late spring the project goes live at the dog races with Team Racing Beringia at PolarHusky.com where mushers of Racing Beringia, with their teams of Alaskan and Chukchi sled dogs, run the great races of the region - the Yukon Quest across Canada, the Iditarod across Alaska, and the Nadezhda Hope race across Chukotka. Their stories and experiences from the trail are broadcast online to fuel learning in classrooms across the world. During the summer the focus shifts to summer games: In July of 2014 the inaugural Beringia Arctic Games took place in New Chaplino in Chukotka. As part of this project, indigenous peoples from all the Arctic Nations were able to take part in traditional activities like the skin boat races, one-hand-reach, running-with-stick and one-foot-kick. Besides initiating an event that will likely become a standing tradition in the Beringia region, the Arctic Games will also provide a wealth of materials for a new curriculum and online learning experience. The lessons that are being created are anchored in social and natural sciences and geared towards learners of all ages. For the next year of project a Young Chukchi musher named Timofei Gynuntegin of Lorino (Chukotka) is in Willow with Team Racing Beringia preparing for his rookie run in the 2016 Iditarod. The 2016 dog sledding season will conclude the planned activities of this project. In addition to the Beringia Program funding, support comes primarily from the government of the Chukotka Autonomous region. As the first truly "joint" project, it serves as a symbol of the cooperative relationship between Alaska and our neighbors on the Russian side. The curriculum for the "Racing Beringia" phase of the project is already posted on the website and is available to students and teachers for free. Interest in the mushing component of the project is generating interest in the new website for the Sports and Games project curriculum. The new website www.berinigiagames.com is currently an informational site only; more detailed information to this website will be added in 2016.


Ice Bridge: Profiles from Beringia

Partner: Sitka Sound Science Center
Contact: Elizabeth S. Arnold, Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Alaska Anchorage

  • North Pacific Research Board (NPRB)
  • Pew Center for the Environment
  • University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA)

Location: Anchorage, Alaska; Anadyr, Chukotka
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $48,660 in 2013; $46,320 in 2014; $47,700 in 2015

"Ice Bridge: Profiles of Beringia" is a series of compelling, intimate portraits of people making a difference within the larger Beringia region. Each profile will focus on an individual whose life, work or research tells a larger story that is insightful, instructive, and inspiring to the overall community. These profiles, combined with an interactive website linked to both the Sitka Sound Science Center and the Shared Beringian Heritage Program pages, intends to generate interest in the issues and obstacles facing the region. This is a critical time for Beringia, as a shifting climate has increased attention to the Arctic in an unprecedented way. "Ice Bridge" aims to capture and tell the stories of everyday people as they experience these life changes. In addition, the profiles can shed light on the on-the-ground implications of subjects like climate change, life in a rural village, adapting to the environment, and the value of Traditional Knowledge. Project Coordinator/Principal Investigator Elizabeth Arnold is a nationally recognized and award winning journalist with more than three decades of national and international experience. Over the first two years, Arnold researched, wrote, and produced 12 audio stories and six radio stories that were broadcasted nationally and are available with companion multimedia portraits posted on a central interactive website. The mirror Russian website is scheduled to go public in the fall of 2015. A minimum of 3 additional stories will be produced in year 3. The projects annual reports for year 1 is available here.


Continuing Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2012

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Collection of Traditional Ecological Knowledge Regarding Polar Bear Habitat Use in Chukotka, Russia

Partner: Alaska Nanuuq Commission
Contact: Jack Omelak
  • Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka (ATMMHC)
Location: Lorino, Lavrentiya, Uelen, lnchoun, Enurmino, Neshkan, Nutepelmen, Vankarem, Ryrkaipi, Yanranai, Rytkuchi, Chukotka.
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $47,000 in 2012, $47,000 in 2013, and $47,000 in 2014

The Alaska Nanuuq Commission (ANC) will conduct a habitat-use study on polar bears that builds on previous studies using traditional knowledge and local observers in several villages in Chukotka, Russia. This 3-year project will produce a report serving to augment and update a previous report: "Traditional Knowledge of Chukotka Native Peoples Regarding Polar Bear Habitat Use," which was conducted by ANC and the National Park Service in 2003. A similar update was completed in Alaska and while not identical, the intent of both projects is very similar: to utilize indigenous knowledge of polar bear habitat to map and identify key locations, to learn more about polar bear movements, and to document environmental changes. This knowledge is vital because the United States and Russia have an agreement, government-to-government and Native-to-Native, to manage the subsistence hunting of polar bears in order to ensure their sustainability. To gauge the health of the population, indigenous observations and traditional knowledge of bear behavior, denning, eating habits, mating, and human interaction are essential components. The ANC is working with indigenous hunters' organizations in Chukotka to gather the observations and to assess any major changes in polar bear habitats or movements on the Russian side. The Russian partner has reached out to an existing network of village coordinators (many were involved in the original 2003 study) and requested that they collect information on the changes to nearby polar bear habitats or movements. Year 1 of this project established these contacts and they were again utilized in year 2. However, due to the availability of several highly educated researchers who were able to participate in the project during the field season, digital mapping was used to locate areas where bears were plentiful. The village coordinators and the local hunters' observations will likely be used to augment the digital evidence and scientific approach. The Nanuuq Commission has submitted reports on the field seasons in years 1 and 2, including the raw survey data used to generate observations. This data will be summarized in a final report cataloguing and analyzing the results from the 3 years of observations and is due in late 2016. Due to several administrative delays the project will be extended to allow the collaborators to finalize their work.


Trans-Beringia Muskoxen — Creation of Ecological Baselines in an Era of Arctic Warming

Partner: University of Montana
Contact: Joel Berger, John J. Craighead Chair and Professor of Wildlife Conservation, Biological Sciences
  • Jim Lawler, Network Coordinator, Ecological Inventory and Monitoring Program, National Park Service, Arctic Network
  • Blake Lowery, University of Montana graduate student
  • Brad Shults, Wildlife Biologist, Western Arctic National Parklands
  • Alexander Gruzdev, Superintendent, Wrangel Island Zapovednik

Location: Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska; and Wrangel Island Zapovednik, Chukotka
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $39,010 in 2012; $28,670 in 2013; $39,010 in 2014

The establishment of baseline conditions for muskoxen within and between populations over time is a primary goal of this project, which will be conducted across both Chukotka and Alaska. In a strong collaborative effort with Russian and American partners, the proposed study areas are Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska, and Wrangel Island Zapovednik, Chukotka, Russia. The project goals are: 1) to gain insights about how climate and other factors affect or change population size and the survival of muskoxen; and 2) to establish ecological baselines for the measurement of the these factors. These benchmarks are being achieved through the use of non-invasive measurement techniques to discern stress in populations of wild muskoxen in these protected areas. These methods are also being utilized to approximate the individual growth rates through the use of photogrammetry of young muskoxen across. Photogrammetry is a technique that uses photo imaging to understand the precise body-size proportions of muskoxen and their calves. The project's principal investigator, Joel Berger, submitted a progress report for all three field seasons detailing the project activities during each year. The reports are available on the Program's website in a .PDF format (year 1; year 2; year 3). In year three of the project Joel Berger, traveled to Wrangel Island, Chukotka and collected field data on the Russian side together with the Director of the Wrangel Island Zapovednik, Alexander Gruzdev and his staff. A detailed account of the field work on Wrangel Island can be found in Berger's Blog at the e360 Yale Environment Digest. The final project report with data analyses is expected in late December 2015.


Continuing Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2010

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Bowhead Coastal Observation Project - Chukotka

Partner: North Slope Borough, Alaska
Contact: Craig George, Cyd Hanns

  • Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Vladimir Melnikov
  • Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka, Eduard Zdor
  • Chukotka Science Support Group, Gennady Zelenskiy
  • ChukotTINRO, Denis Litovka

Location: Uelen and Sereniki, Russia (may change based on logistics and recommendations of colleagues in Chukotka)
Duration: 3 years
Funding: $34,022 in 2010, $39,230 in 2011, $47,216 in 2012

This project studied the distribution and abundance of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas bowhead whale population and documented mammal sightings off the coast of Chukotka for three years, from 2010-2012. The North Slope Borough provided a field report for the 2010 field season, documenting observations from the Chukotka side. This report is available and posted on the program website. In addition, another field season of monitoring and documentation was carried out in 2011 and a progress report was submitted in February 2012 and is available here. The project was extended in September of 2014 for a year to allow more time to finalize the final scientific report. All final deliverables are expected by September 19, 2015.

2010 Field Season Progress Report | 2010-2011 Field Seasons Progress Report


Continuing Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 2009

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Health Evaluation of Walrus

Partner: Eskimo Walrus Commission, Kawerak, Inc.
Contact: Vera Metcalf

  • Arctic Research Commission, Cheryl Rosa
  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Gay Sheffield
  • ChukotTINRO, Denis Litovka
  • Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters (ATMMHC), Eduard Zdor
  • Chukotka Science Support Group (CSSG), Gennady Zelenskiy
Location: Chukotka, Russia
Duration: 3 years
Funding: No funding in 2009, $25,601 in 2010, $4,284 in 2011 to cover travel cancellation cost in 2011; $21,400 in 2012

This community based project sought to proactively monitor walrus as the arctic environment rapidly changes. A multi-disciplinary assessment of body conditions and health-related parameters was initially planned, with biological samples being collected on both sides of the Bering Strait. The workplan and activities were adjusted several times due to weather related problems, as well as new strategies and new methods. The project coordinator Dr. Cheryl Rosa and collaborator Gay Sheffield were unable to travel to the sites in Chukotka to collect the needed samples due to weather and other obstacles several years in a row. In consultation with the Beringia Program, the project workplan was adapted to reflect a change in methodology. Instead of traveling to Chukotka to collect samples, which had proven to be an ineffective and unpredictable method, the cooperator held a workshop in Anchorage in March of 2012. Native hunters and leaders attended the workshop and learned how to correctly collect the samples themselves. The project is also planning an additional training workshop with both American and Russian subsistence hunters in October of 2015 in Nome, Alaska. With the workplan change, accomplishing the final goal of a thorough health analysis is unlikely, so the deliverables for this project have also been adapted to reflect the reality of the situation. The project is now considering the training and teaching of a valuable and marketable skill that can be utilized in the future as a major project benchmark. With the adjustments, the final results will include a thorough account of the workshops, the training methods, the implications for future research and sample-gathering, and some follow-up with workshop participants. These materials are expected in early 2016.

Last Updated: November 3, 2015