20 June 2013:
As the last pans of ice float by, carpeted in raucous gulls, Shishmaref and Kotzebue make the record books at a toasty 60’F and scorching 85’F (respectively), and the midnight sun shines bright on solstice, our first day of summer, the National Park Service is pleased to announce three upcoming field projects in and around Ikpek Lagoon. Today’s blog post explains where the projects will take place, why and how they are being conducted, and when you may see the crews out there in planes, boats, or on foot.
Ikpek Lagoon lies just beyond the Chukchi Sea coast in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve on the Seward Peninsula. Generally shallow waters separated from the ocean by a sand spit or barrier island, Merriam-Webster defines lagoons as “communicating” with a larger body of water. To learn about the dynamics of hydrology, water chemistry, fisheries, and wildlife in the coastal lagoons of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, the National Park Service has initiated a long-term monitoring program (click here for more information). The work being done at Ikpek this summer, however, comprises three short-term research projects:
PROJECT 1: Climate Change and Archaeology in Northwest Alaska: Nuluk Study
As permafrost thaws the coastline becomes vulnerable to erosion. In areas where we are literally “losing ground” there may lie an archaeological record woven with the story of people over millennia. Dr. Shelby Anderson of Portland State University is working with the National Park Service to conduct two field seasons of surveys documenting what could be lost forever.
PROJECT 2: Shorebird Use of Coastal Lagoons during Fall Migration
Off-shore exploration and drilling in the Arctic Ocean as well as an increasing rate of shipping through arctic waters bring the threat of spills to our Parks’ coastlines. Part of preparing for these scenarios includes assessing what we know about the ecology of the area now. Having this “baseline” information for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl that aggregate in great numbers in our coastal lagoons preparing for the long flight south is crucial. Dr. Audrey Taylor (University of Alaska Anchorage) and Jeremy Mizel (NPS) are leading this project.
PROJECT 3: Lagoon Hydrology
To build skill and capacity for oil spill response in arctic waters, planners dream up fictional scenarios and stare at computer screens with hypothetical “blobs” that creep toward land however the simulated current and wind allow. When these fictional “blobs” reach the shores of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument it becomes apparent that the resources and subsistence activities within the coastal lagoons are a priority for protection. As the discussion turns toward chemical dispersants and boom, the mystery of the way in which water moves in and out of the lagoons becomes an important one. A the “blob” approaches, National Park Service coastal ecologist Tahzay Jones and hydrologist Paul Burger want to be able to describe how much water moves into and out of the lagoons, how influential the tides are, or if the channel closes during some of the ice-free months... the "communication" between the Ikpek Lagoon and Chukchi Sea. To do so, they will be installing a sensitive device at the outlet of Ikpek Lagoon called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler.
IT’S A BIRD… NO, IT’S A PLANE FULL OF BIRD BIOLOGISTS!
Though inclement weather, wind, or fog may cause some change in the following schedule, local residents may expect to see crews flying into Ikpek Lagoon on the following dates. Should you have any concerns or questions, please contact the National Park Service in Nome at 907-443-2522 (toll-free 1-800-471-2352) or Kotzebue at 907-442-3890 (toll-free 1-800-478-7252).
July 11 Archaeology Crew (3 landings)
July 18 & 20 Lagoon Hydrology (2 landings)
July 24 Shorebird Ground Crew (3 landings)
July 28-31 Shorebird Aerial Surveys (low-level flying at Ikpek and nearby lagoons)
August 1-5 Shorebird Aerial Surveys (low-level flying at Ikpek and nearby lagoons)
August 3 Archaeology Crew (3 landings)
August 8 Shorebird Ground Crew (1 landing)
August 20 Lagoon Hydrology Crew and Shorebird Ground Crew (2 landings)August 30 Lagoon Hydrology Crew and Shorebird Ground Crew (5 landings)