• Developing communication tools for resource management in western Alaska: an evaluation of the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative coastal projects database

      Warner, Nicole; Trainor, Sarah; Greenburg, Joshua; Fix, Peter (2017)
      Science communication is an essential component in decision-making for resource management in Alaska. This field aids in bridging knowledge gaps between scientists and diverse stakeholders. In 2014, the Western Alaska LCC developed a database cataloging the current coastal change projects in order to facilitate collaboration amongst researchers, managers, and the surrounding communities. In order to better inform similar outreach projects in other LCC regions, this MNRM project entailed an evaluation of this database between April and September 2016 and comprised a ten-question phone interview with the database participants and other involved personnel. Results from this evaluation can help refine the database to better suit its users' needs in the future, and it can also inform the creation of similar tools in other LCC regions. This project evaluated the use and usability of the Western Alaska LCC Coastal Change Database. First, I review coastal change and its impacts on Western Alaska. Next, I explore how institutions can respond to these changes and what resources they can use, including decision-support tools. I then provide examples of different decision-support tools (both in academic literature and in Alaskan projects) and discuss methodologies for evaluating their use. Interview results are then reported. The evaluation of the WALCC Coastal Change Database indicated that the tool was mostly used to enhance general understanding of the research occurring in the region. Respondents were less likely to use it for time-intensive tasks such as collaboration. Respondents also indicated that a place exists for tools like this database to flourish, but they need 1) persistent outreach, 2) a dynamic design, and 3) immediate benefits for users' time. In the future, regular updates and frequent outreach could improve the database's usability and help maintain its credibility.
    • Social dimensions of invasive plant management: an Alaska case study

      Callear, Tara L.; Fix, Pete; Brinkman, Todd; Graziano, Gino (2018-05)
      Uncertainty pervades attempts to identify an efficient management response to the threat of invasive plants. Sources of uncertainty include the paucity of data, measurement errors, variable invasiveness, and unpredictable impacts of the control methods. Rather than relying on this uncertain evidence from the natural sciences, land managers are taking a more participatory approach to invasive plant management to help alleviate risk and share the responsibility of implementation of proactive control and eradication strategies. This research is intended to contribute to this process of social learning by revealing the beliefs that determine stakeholder management preferences in a case study involving an infestation of Vicia cracca (bird vetch) affecting public lands, north of the Arctic Circle, along the Dalton Highway in Alaska. Possible encroachment of this "highly invasive" species upon vulnerable areas of high conservation significance in this rapidly changing, boreal-arctic system has motivated some stakeholders to advocate an aggressive, early response aimed at eradication using herbicides. This case study applies social-psychological theory in the study of the interactions between human behavior and human outcomes. Interior Alaska stakeholders were engaged in a survey to measure support for a scenario involving the use of herbicides to control the highly-invasive species, Vicia cracca (bird vetch), which has spread north along a road corridor north of the Arctic Circle. Respondents were asked a series of questions about the "likelihood" and "acceptability" of the possible outcomes. The survey results aligned with the expectation that attitudes predict management preference, however the beliefs that influence these attitudes were more complicated than expected. The results address the feedbacks anticipated between the human outcomes and human behavior in the social template within the broader system context that are critical to management success. The purpose is to utilize the results of this specific case study to facilitate the development of ongoing research questions that are generalizable to other affected boreal-arctic ecosystems, regionally and globally.
    • Toward Arctic transitions and sustainability: modeling risks and resilience across scales of governance

      Blair, Berill; Lovecraft, Amy Lauren; Kofinas, Gary P.; Eicken, Hajo; Haley, Sharman; Meek, Chanda (2017-08)
      The Arctic region has been the subject of international attention in recent years. The magnitude of impacts from global climate change, land-use change, and speculations about economic development and accessible polar shipping lanes have intensified this focus. As a result, the potential to manage complex ecological, social and political relationships in the context of changes, risks and opportunities is the focus of a large and growing body of research. This dissertation contributes to the expanding scholarship on managing Arctic social-ecological systems for resilience by answering the question: What conditions improve cross-scale learning and resilience in nested social-ecological systems experiencing rapid changes? Using the framework of social-ecological systems and the drivers of change that can transform fundamental relationships within, three studies profile the spatial and temporal dimensions of learning and risk perceptions that impact nested social systems. The first study presents a spatial and temporal analysis of scale- and level-specific processes that impact learning from risks. It draws on four cases to underscore the need for a plurality of risk assumptions in learning for resilience, and sums up essential resources needed to support key decision points for increasing resilience. Two additional studies present research conducted with northern Alaska communities and resource managers. In these studies, I analyzed the extent to which perceptions of risks scale horizontally (between same-level jurisdictions), and vertically (between levels in a dominant jurisdictional structure). These examples illustrate the need for innovative institutions to enhance cross-scale learning, and to balance global drivers of change with local socioeconomic, cultural, and ecological interests. Based on findings of the dissertation research I propose recommendations to optimize the tools and processes of complex decision making under uncertainty.
    • Why did Alaska eliminate the Alaska Coastal Management Program?

      Wilson, Ryan M.; Todd, Susan; O'Donoghue, Brian P.; Speight, Jeremy S. (2018-05)
      In 1972, the federal government passed the Coastal Zone Management Act. The federal government recognized that there is a national interest in effective management of the nation's coasts. The act created a program that made it possible for states to collaborate with the federal government to manage the nation's coastal areas and resources. In July of 2011, after thirty-two years of active participation in the program, Alaska became the only eligible state or territory to choose to no longer take part in the program. This action significantly affected Alaska's ability to manage the state's coastline and resources. This research is a qualitative case study that documents the events leading up to the establishment of the Alaska Coastal Management Program, its implementation, its elimination, and the initiative regarding its possible reinstatement. The research evaluates the current form of Alaska's coastal management practices to determine if it meets Elinor Ostrom's design principles for effective common property resource management, as well as theories on decentralization/devolution, polycentric governance, and adaptability and resilience. The research concludes that Alaska's choice to eliminate the Alaska Coastal Management Program was influenced by the interests of natural resource extraction agencies and a consequence of divisive party politics. The research finds that the effect of eliminating the Alaska Coastal Management Program was that the State of Alaska took a significant step away from what science recommends as prudent ways to manage common property resources.