PI-AK Research Collaborations Spotlighted at 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting

PI-AK presenters at OSM

The Pacific Islands and Southeast Alaska both include landscapes typified by steep watersheds with dramatic environmental gradients. Climate change, in combination with other anthropogenic factors, is altering key processes in both the Pacific Island’s Ridge-to-Reef (R2R) and Alaska’s Icefield-to-Ocean (I2O) watersheds, with impacts cascading through terrestrial, freshwater, and nearshore marine ecosystems via the movement of water, energy, biota, and nutrients.  Despite the profound importance and cultural and natural resource richness of these systems, scientific inquiry and science-based management are challenged by sparse monitoring networks, difficult study environments, and inconsistent efforts to incorporate local, cultural perspectives and knowledge forms into the research and management processes. These challenges limit our understanding of how these ecosystems function and respond to climate and other stressors.

In an effort to spread awareness and build new connections, the 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting PI-AK session spotlighted the current research projects from the inaugural cohort of scientists, students, and community partnerships. Six PI-AK panelists responded to shared regional challenges through cross-regional research and cultural engagement. Following the project presentations, the session allowed for a short a dicussion on developing further interactive forums for scientists, managers, and students to explore these systems jointly, while exchanging knowledge and support for community-based climate adaptation.   

Pacific Islands CASC Director Dr. Mari-Vaughn Johnson kicked off the session describing the shared challenges and opportunities that formed the foundation of this collaboration. Opportunities to co-produce knowledge arose from a number of mutual challenges: (1) working across expansive landscapes intertwined with place-based cultural identity and competing resource interests; (2) supporting environmental justice across ethical resource management, displacement, and indigenous and local empowerment topics; and (3) addressing critical climate adaptation capacity now and into the future. Johnson noted that through the PI-AK collaboration, we can achieve our goals of enhancing regional climate science together, growing relationships across institutional and educational systems, promoting career development and community engagement opportunities, and connecting necessary partners in the co-production of relevant adaptation science.

Six panelists presented their ongoing work within this collaboration.

Ridge-to-Reef and Icefield-to-Ocean: Collaborative Research in Extreme Environments presented by Steve Gray (USGS Alaska CASC)

“Translating existing model results to aid in resource management planning for future precipitation extremes in Hawaiʻi and Southeast Alaska” presented by Abby Frazier (Clark University)

“Influence streamflow variability on fish populations as a proxy for understanding nutrient transport under climate change in Hawaiʻi”
Yinphan Tsang (UHM) gave a deep dive into research evaluating the effects of annual variability in flow conditions on the growth and recruitment of invasive armored suckermouth catfish in Hawaiian streams, and compares findings to those of a complementary study linking hydrology to freshwater salmon growth in southeast Alaska.)

“An integrated framework to understand linkages across icefield-to-ocean and ridge-to-reef ecosystems”
Jason Fellman (University of Alaska Southeast) presented about the creation of a linked land-sea integrated framework that involves identifying and evaluating resources people depend on, assessing resource threats and, working with communities and stakeholders to collaboratively and holistically model impact scenarios.

“Icefields to Oceans: The Influence of Stream Flow Patterns on Juvenile Salmon Growth in Southeast Alaska”
Jeff Falke (USGS, AKCFWRU) presented about a high-resolution and mechanistic approach to examining how the sequence of high and low flow events in a watershed influences foraging and growth conditions for juvenile coho salmon. The team is also exchanging ideas, sampling techniques, and findings to compare across Hawaiʻi and Alaska regions.

“How will hydrologic regime shifts influence nutrient and organic matter fluxes in Alaska and Hawai‘i ridge-to-reef ecosystems?”.
Ryan Bellmore (Pacific NW Research Station, USDA-FS) presented work by his team to quantify exports of dissolved nutrients, particulate organic matter, and organisms (macroinvertebrates and larval fishes) at high and low flows in two similar sized rivers in southeast Alaska and Hawai‘i.

Each presenter brought a unique perspective to the session, shedding light on the compelling potential for cross-regional research collaborations across PI-AK. Following the panel, attendees asked questions of the speakers and contributed to a short, collective virtual brainstorming activity. Ideas noted and discussed during those activities will be used to enhance future programmatic efforts. The PI-AK Collaboration has just begun and is still discovering the possibilities for learning, engagement, and exchange between our surprisingly similar regions. The Pacific Islands CASC and Alaska CASC hope to grow this partnership exploring our parallel challenges and helping both regional communities advance the critical science necessary for climate change adaptation.