Interaction Between Coastal and Riverine Processes and the Built Environment in Coastal Arctic Communities


Alaskan communities and their built environment are affected by permafrost thaw, coastal and river erosion, flooding, and other natural processes altered or accelerated by environmental changes. Arctic coastal communities in particular face compound threats from riverbank erosion, permafrost thaw, and increasing coastal storm impacts. As data collection campaigns in the Arctic are costly and often limited to periods of the year when weather affords access to sites of interest, significant gaps in data and information can result. This NNA planning grant employs workshops designed to discover gaps in knowledge and develop associated research questions and hypotheses to address issues affecting coastal Arctic communities in Alaska. It identifies novel strategies for making targeted measurements in these challenging environments. This project also facilitates development of ideas for novel but feasible long-term data collection and monitoring strategies that encourage and rely upon local community engagement. Additionally, this project aids the development of a new multi- and interdisciplinary research team to open pathways towards future research efforts.

This NNA planning grant synthesizes and develops key research questions related to the interaction between coastal and riverine processes and the built environment in the coastal Arctic region in the context of environmental change. This research project is positioned at the nexus between the sciences of the natural and built environments and includes co-production of knowledge with local Arctic communities, as it identifies effective data collection and monitoring strategies to answer these questions, pinpoints expertise needed to assemble a diverse and interdisciplinary research team to address these questions, and engages Alaskan Arctic coastal communities and stakeholders to develop a feasible, sustainable, and impactful research strategy. These goals are achieved through two workshops that include researchers, federal and state agency stakeholders, and community stakeholders, as well as a diverse representation of domestic and international experts, early career researchers, and students. This project engages local community stakeholders into all aspects of the project to learn about and incorporate their knowledge and needs. The project plans to disseminate research findings widely as it assembles a core research team for future steps into research on Arctic coastal communities.

Logistics Summary

This collaboration between Stark (2022562, LEAD, VT), Eidam (2022568, UNC) and Franke (2022583, BYU) aims to better understand the interaction between coastal and riverine processes on the built environment and coastal communities in Alaska. Researchers would organize two workshops in Anchorage Alaska, scheduled for spring of 2021 and 2022. Planning and execution of workshop 1 will initiate communication with a variety of Arctic coastal communities and stakeholders. As the next step, a field team of 4 will visit multiple sites/communities and stakeholders during 7-10 days in June 2021 to discuss their concerns and needs on site, as well as to hear about their perspective on community and stakeholder engagement for data collection and monitoring. This on-site visit will contribute to establish trust and enhance the communication between the researchers and the stakeholders. Through site visits, the PIs will also gain a better understanding of critical issues. COVID-19 contingency plans include virtual participation (workshops may be held entirely as a virtual Zoom meeting if domestic travel is not possible), and/or reduced in-person attendance. Community visits may be delayed to spring 2022 and/or reduced.

Co-Principal Investigators

Project PI(s)
Funded Institutions
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Brigham Young University
Project Start Date
Sep 2020
Award Year
Funding Track