A holistic approach to monitoring abrupt environmental shifts in the Kluane Lake region
Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. The Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, enhances efforts in formal and informal education, and integrates the co-production of knowledge where appropriate. This award fulfills part of that aim by supporting planning activities with clear potential to develop novel, leading edge research ideas and approaches to address NNA goals. It integrates aspects of the natural environment and social systems, and addresses important societal challenges, builds significant educational opportunities, and engages internationally and with local and Indigenous communities.
Rapidly changing Arctic conditions necessitate multi-perspective approaches to creating new knowledge and engaging communities that are most affected by these changes. Thus, planning and co-producing effective Arctic research is needed, results of which will inform social and ecological security on a national, and global scale. The Kluane Lake Region in the Yukon Territory has recently experienced many abrupt environmental shifts. In 2016, the retreating Kaskawulsh Glacier cut off flow from Lhù’ààn Mân (Kluane Lake), effectively removing one of the largest water inputs to the lake. Additionally, recent insect outbreaks have harmed nearby forests, and warming climate regimes have shifted winter ice formation and snowpack development. While these compounding environmental changes will have drastic impacts to the ecosystem for decades to come, their impacts on the local communities will be more rapid. While these ecological impacts have been observed by formal research communities, it is also critical to work closely with local communities to understand their perspectives on critical research questions and natural resource concerns. Thus, the research team works with local communities like the Kluane First Nations and Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, as co-producers of research questions and design.
This convergence research team is co-creating research questions, seeking questions that are relevant and generalizable to the Kluane Lake region specifically, the Yukon generally, and broadly at a pan-Arctic scale. Research questions are being identified by incorporating the experiences and local knowledge of communities. Specifically, planning activities center around a community liaison employed by the project with credibility in the communities around the lake, with two kick-off scoping trips (research team), and then a community-driven workshop to identify gaps in current understanding and existing methodologies to develop: 1) a citizen-science monitoring program to generate reliable and consistent data for climate and lake conditions; 2) compilations of datasets, databases, and tools for accessibility and integration into educational offerings; and 3) knowledge of community acceptance and perspectives on new technologies and data tools. Researchers are employing a mixed methods triangulation approach during the co-production process, via assembly of existing quantitative data, key informant interviews, and structured and unstructured qualitative data collection during the workshop. Researchers will then expand the team to include gaps in expertise, based on final co-produced research questions. Finally, the research team is involving underrepresented students from multiple institutions in the planning process, so they may see how a hybrid model of knowledge co-production (traditional and westernized view of knowledge) takes place.