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Arctic Risk Management Network: Linking Regional Practitioners and Researchers to Improve Mitigation Through Participatory Action Research by Community Monitors about Erosion, Surges, and Nearshore Sea Ice Loss as Mutual Priorities


Tom RavensCollege of Engineering
University of Alaska Anchorage
Anne Garland
Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit
Jacquelyn OverbeckAlaska Department of Natural Resources
State of Alaska



This project will continue the development of the Utqiagvik (Barrow) community-based coastal observation network, and will develop a coastal hazards forecasting system focused on the forecasting of coastal surge and flooding and coastal erosion. The existing coastal monitoring system consists of the monitoring of six cross-shore transects, and was initiated two years ago by project team member Anne Garland (ARIES). The coastal monitoring system will be expanded in two respects. First, a team of community observers will be formed to document storm surge heights. Second, an Argus video camera will be deployed on a public building to document the near-shore wave conditions and water level. Data collected by the observers and the observation system will be used to calibrate and validate the storm surge, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion forecasting system. In the event of a large storm, erosion forecasts generated by the project will be provided to the North Slope Borough Risk Management Office so local emergency responders can take pro-active measures to control erosion and flooding.


The issue

Many coastal communities on the west and north coast of Alaska are vulnerable to coastal hazards and that vulnerability is increasing as the environment changes. Many of these communities recognize the importance of monitoring their coastal environment in order to document the changes, to understand how the changing environment is affecting critical infrastructure, and to gather data that will assist with the effort of forecasting future change and planning. These communities lack sufficient funds to hire professional coastal monitors, so they have begun developing community-based monitoring programs. Utqiagvik (Barrow) is one of many coastal communities that recognize the gravity of the coastal hazards they face and they have begun developing a community-based coastal monitoring project. Led by Anne Garland, 6 cross-shore transects have been designed and beach profiles have been collected along those transects for the past two years. This project will serve as a demonstration of how community-based coastal monitoring efforts, coastal hazards forecasters, and emergency managers can collaborate to share knowledge and mitigate risk. The project has an important education and workforce development piece. Community volunteers and students will directly engage with the project team and will have the opportunity to learn and do projects relating to coastal monitoring (assisted by video cameras), coastal forecasting, and emergency response.

Why is this an Alaska Sea Grant project?

This project directly supports the 2018-2021 Alaska Sea Grant strategic plan. In particular, the project supports goal 4: “Communities and residents with skills and knowledge to respond and adapt to coastal hazards and environmental change.” The project will increase community/resident skills relative to coastal hazards. Through engaging with students, community volunteers, and the North Slope Emergency Management office, skills and knowledge in the areas of coastal monitoring, coastal hazards forecasting, and emergency response will be enhanced.

The strategies used in the project are also consistent with those listed in the Strategic Plan. In particular, the project directly supports the six strategies listed:

We will educate communities and residents about coastal hazards and environmental change. We also feel that we will learn about the community’s interests and needs through the interaction so we can better respond to them.

We will support adaptation planning efforts through our project. We will generate high quality data and information on the coastal erosion threat and on the coastal flooding threat. The forecasting tools we provide will help the community adapt to these coastal threats, both in the near term and in the longer term.

Our project will partner with community-based monitoring groups and will work to expand the scope of the monitoring to include surge and wave monitoring. This activity will enhance the knowledge of coastal hazards for all concerned and the approach will be transportable to other locations.

The project will fund efforts in research, data collection, and data analysis relative to coastal hazards and hazard mitigation planning. For example, in the event of a storm, our project will provide guidance on where the erosion threat is greatest so emergency managers can pro-actively place erosion control measures.

The project includes funds for two site visits in which we coordinate, teach, and participate in community-based prevention and preparedness relative to coastal hazards.

We will engage with the relevant boards and committees. For example, we have good contacts with AOOS and AOOS’s computer science team has hosted coastal hazards data that we have generated in the past. We also plan to bring data collected at Utqiagvik into the database maintained by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

We anticipate that our project will achieve the desired outcomes stated in the plan including: better awareness of Alaska residents about coastal hazards and improved capacity to mitigate and plan responses to the hazards.

Improved decision making about responses to coastal hazards by fostering local resident participation in coastal observation, coastal forecasting, and emergency response planning.