The Natural Resource and Inventory and Monitoring teams contribute to a scientific foundation in support of resource management, policy formation, and visitor programs in Alaska's parks. We conduct science, and more broadly ensure the dissemination of the best available science, in support of natural resource stewardship in Alaska.
We support consistent implementation of the Wilderness Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and other laws and policies. And, we collaborate with, and facilitate communication between, parks, regional office programs, and partners to advance the NPS mission and its programs and policies.
A variety of science and other resource stewardship efforts are currently underway across Alaska’s national parklands. These efforts cover a wide spectrum of topics from glacial melt, to fossil exploration and protection, to sea otter monitoring, and wilderness protection.
Examples of what we do include:
- Alaska Park Science. The National Park Service and our partners are engaged in a variety of research and monitoring of natural resources in parks that contribute to science and what we know about Alaska and the natural world.
- Climate change. Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country. Our science explores how climate change impacts park ecosystems and resources.
- Coastal resources. Alaska has close to 34,000 miles of shoreline, more than the rest of the U.S. combined, and 3,600 miles of coastline are part of Alaska's parks. We study coastal and marine ecosystems, how they are impacted by changing ocean temperatures and chemistry, contaminants, and increased shipping traffic.
- Geographic Information Systems (and Global Positioning Systems). Our high-quality geospatial data and services are readily available and extensively deployed to enhance the decision-making process that supports the National Park Service mission in Alaska. Geospatial tools and cartographic products help visualize the abundant resources and assets across Alaskan park units for internal mapping purposes as well as partner and public dissemination.
- Geology and geological processes. Alaska is located in a tectonically active region. Glacier-carved valleys, volcanoes, earthquakes, changing shorelines, ancient fossils, and frequent avalanches are all part of the dynamic and intriguing national parks of Alaska.
- Hydrology. Water is the basis for all life on this planet. Alaska contains some of the most diverse water resources in the world, from glacial streams and giant rivers to coastal lagoons. More than 40% of Alaska is wetland, providing vital breeding and rearing habitat for local aquatic species and migratory waterbirds from all over North America. We study changes in these systems and help to maintain our waters for all the life that depends on it.
- Invasive species. Alaska's national parks are home to complex native communities of plants and animals that have developed over millions of years. The delicate natural balance within these communities is threatened by the influx of invasive species, which are considered the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss.
- Inventory and monitoring. Inventories provide baseline information, and long-term monitoring efforts increase our understanding of natural resources and systems in parks and informing park managers of the status and trends of those resources for decision making.
- Wilderness. About 95% of Alaska's parks are designated wilderness or eligible for designation based on their natural qualities, undeveloped appearance, and wild character. In total, 52 million acres are protected or managed as wilderness. It is important to maintain the wilderness character of Alaska parks to increase their resilience to climate change and other stressors, safeguard unique scientific and educational opportunities, and provide inestimable psychological and spiritual benefits to people worldwide.
- Wildlife and habitat. Large, intact areas, little development, and relatively pristine environmental conditions make Alaska well known for its abundant wildlife. Alaska's national parks provide visitors with up-close experiences. The large tracts of land and water within the parks serve as a sanctuary for wildlife, a study area for researchers, and a place to continue traditional hunting practices for Alaskans.