$13.9 million grant funds ACTION Project

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Published: Oct. 20, 2023 at 10:09 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The National Science Foundation is funding a $13.9 million program spearheaded by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). The Alaska Coastal Cooperative for Co-Producing Transformative Ideas and Opportunities in the North, known by the acronym ACTION, aims to study and help coastal communities respond to the effects of climate change.

“About five years ago or so there were numerous gaps across the coastline of Alaska with regards to mapping,” explained Dr. Chris Maio, an associate professor of coastal geography and the director of the Alaska Coastal Cooperative. “Things like pathimetry and arial imaging and things like that, and a lot of that is now being done through the state. But the community and local scale level data sets is what’s off and missing, and this project really focuses on that place-based environmental monitoring.”

Maio explained that the ACTION committee members have been seeking funding and building their plans for the past five years, and says their plans include placing equipment such as wave buoys and water level gauges across the coast.

The Alaska Coastal Cooperative’s three main goals are to enhance communication by means of a knowledge exchange network; to advance applied science in rural communities; and to build technical capacity in these communities to make them increasingly self-sustaining.

“One of the exciting parts about this project is that we are working with communities to hire community research leads,” Maio added. “So about $2.2 million is going to the eight communities that we’re working with, and that money really serves to hire local researchers to work with us to carry out the project.”

He emphasized the project “flips the script” by inviting the communities to guide the researchers with regard to what they think are the most important changes and issues to monitor.

“When I came to Alaska and started working with the Alaska Native communities it really opened my eyes to the long-term observations that people had made here in Alaska. That indigenous and local knowledge that understands and has seen through the generations how the coastline is changing,” said Maio.

Over the next four years researchers will travel to communities on Alaska’s west and southwest coasts, including the Aleutian islands and the Bering Sea and Beaufort Sea coasts.