Scientists work with locals to track sea ice formation in Kotzebue Sound

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 8:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to locals, there was no sea ice formation during the winter of 2018 to 2019. This caused alarm bells to ring for the population who relies on subsistence hunting to survive.

A group of about 15 scientists and one filmmaker started their journey to help the greater scientific community, as well as the local population, better understand sea ice formation in the sound and the impacts the lack of sea ice is having on wildlife.

They call the project Ikaagvik Sikukun, which is an Inupiaq word that translates to “ice bridges.” The project uses drones and other scientific data collection to monitor sea ice formation. Their main goal was to better help the community understand its ever-changing climate. The researchers, with the help of residents, compiled a list of six questions they worked to answer throughout their project.

“The Arctic is changing rapidly and specifically in Kotzebue Sound how that affects the way of life for people how detrimental the loss of ice to the way of life in that it is challenging in ta community that truly relies on subsistence resources to survive and so when your health and safety is at risk because of climate change and because of lack of sea ice and the thickness it’s just much thinner so I just hope that viewers are able to gain a better understanding of how this really impacts people wildlife and the greater planet because of what is happening and changing up in the arctic,” says Sarah Betcher, the project’s documentary filmmaker.

Betcher worked to created a series of films centered around the project to better help both the community and the world understand the implications of the lack of sea ice formation. The films can be seen here as well as more about the research project.

Ikaagvik Sikukun was delayed about a year because of COVID-19. They are still waiting to travel back to Kotzebue to present their complete findings to the community. They also hope to have their findings published in various scientific journals.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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