Sensitive Operations in the Arctic


photo Courtesy of Gay Sheffield

The Arctic polar regions have been home to humans for thousands of years. While much has changed since first contact between Inuit and Europeans more than one thousand years ago, many culturally and linguistically distinct peoples remain nutritionally, culturally and economically reliant on the available traditional marine based food resources. As scientific interest in the Arctic has increased so has the potential for conflicts between research and subsistence users, typically in biologically significant areas. Coastal Alaskans in western and northern Alaska are adapting to shifting industrial and environmental regimes. Whether you realize it or not, a visiting researcher faces an unusually high level of interest and scrutiny by local residents for two reasons:

  1. Unintended impacts of research, such as ship noise, are known to alter the availability of marine-based food resources.
  2. Coastal people are part of the ecosystem you are studying. It is important for communities to understand what you are doing, why and the results of your work 

Gay Sheffield, Marine Advisory Program Agent - Bering Strait, University of Alaska

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