Recent Submissions

  • Understanding permafrost dynamics and geohazards with a terrain-cryofacies approach

    Stephani, Eva; Shur, Yuri; Doré, Guy; Darrow, Margaret; Kanevskiy, Mikhail (2021-12)
    The Arctic and its permafrost terrain are inherently dynamic, complex, and sensitive environments. Understanding the past and current changes occurring in these systems is key in predicting future variations, including the response of permafrost to climate change, and to terrain modifications resulting from natural processes or anthropogenic activities. This study contributes to advance our understanding of permafrost dynamics in varying permafrost environments of northern Alaska and northwestern Canada using a terrain-cryofacies approach. This unique approach helps to increase our understanding of permafrost dynamics from the site-specific scale to over extended areas by recognizing linkages between terrain and subsurface properties, and by identifying similar terrain units in remote sensing analysis. In the Colville River Delta (Alaska), our terrain-cryofacies study integrated data from 79 boreholes with a remote sensing analysis to evaluate the temporal changes in the Nigliq channel positions from 1948 to 2013 and the related permafrost dynamics. Most land cover changes occurred as land exposition (64%), whereas about 36% of the total changes were classified as eroded. The erosion of the older terrain units from the floodplain toposequence, such as the inactive-floodplain cover deposits, implied ground loss volumes of about one-fifth of soil solids and four-fifths of ground ice. Along this channel, we also identified the typical configuration and properties of taliks and cryopegs, as well as subsequent epigenetic permafrost growth. We found that the active channel was underlain by closed taliks, rather than through taliks and thus did not penetrate the entire layer of permafrost connecting supra- and sub-permafrost groundwater. A cryopeg connected to the active channel talik was identified from borehole data in the adjacent terrain units that developed following channel migration. We estimated the likelihood of encountering such taliks and cryopegs over extended areas. The terrain-cryofacies approach was also applied to understand permafrost dynamics of hillslope thermokarst located in multiple ecoregions of northern Alaska and northwestern Canada, including areas affected by interactions with infrastructure. Six features were studied through the combination of field-based and remote sensing methods, whereas 150 others were assessed solely by remote sensing. Studies along a pipeline indicated that embankment construction led to an increase in the active layer thickness, reaching the underlying ice-rich intermediate layer, and causing thaw settlement. This formed a thermokarst-ditch that facilitated channelization of cross-drainage water, and thermal erosion of the ice-rich permafrost that became affected by thermal denudation and caused a retrogressive thaw slump (RTS). The RTS later selfstabilized mainly due to the lateral discontinuity of massive ice (i.e., ice wedge) and the low-relief terrain. We suggested approaches to develop adaptation strategies for infrastructure at risk of RTS based on: these findings and conditions that favor or limit RTS growth by local feedbacks; considering the interaction patterns that we identified between RTS and infrastructure; and the main destabilization processes that we highlighted by terrain units. Further research is necessary, however, and must include testing potential mitigation techniques at multiple sites with monitoring programs to assess the variability in performance with respect to site-specific conditions.
  • Rooted in environmental justice: phytogeography and ethnoecology of Serianthes

    Demeulenaere, Else; Ickert-Bond, Stefanie M.; Lovecraft, Amy Lauren; Yamin-Pasternak, Sveta; Jernigan, Kevin; Rubinstein, Donald H. (2021-12)
    Serianthes Benth. (Fabaceae) is one of the most endangered plant genera in the world, with 12 of the 18 species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Serianthes trees are culturally important to island communities of the Indo-Pacific region for canoes, boats, traditional houses, and medicine. Habitat loss and ecosystem degradation increased pressure on these trees, also threatening its Indigenous cosmology and traditional practices. This interdisciplinary study integrated genomic, biogeographic and ethnoecological approaches to develop appropriate policies that protect the Indigenous biocultural diversity of Serianthes. Phylogenomics of 401 nuclear exons and non-coding flanking regions using both a multi-species coalescent model and a partition gene tree analysis confirmed the monophyly of the genus and inferred the biogeography and phylogenetic relationships within Serianthes. The Guåhan (Guam) and Luta (Rota) endemic Serianthes nelsonii (known locally as Håyun lågu and Tronkon guåfi respectively) are closely related to South Pacific species. Serianthes kanehirae from Belau (Palau) and Wa'ab (Yap) are closely related to Malesian and Papuasian species. Phylogeographical patterns of Serianthes in Micronesia are discussed to inform conservation management. The ethnoecological study revealed interspecies relationships between people, animals, and plants remain strong. The traditional use of Ukall and Gumor (Serianthes kanehirae) on Belau and Wa'ab respectively remain part of Belau and Wa'ab's culture and are intertwined with rituals respecting the spiritual world. On Luta, Tronkon guåfi is an established flagship for endangered species conservation, while the last adult Håyun lågu tree on Guåhan became a rallying point for spiritual resistance when its habitat became threatened by military plans to construct a firing range. Despite its listing as critically endangered by the Endangered Species Act, its habitat is still at risk of being lost. The social movement guided by Prutehi Litekyan brought the community together to protect the Håyun lågu tree based on Indigenous belief systems. The social movement and policy research used a qualitative mixed-method approach to evaluate the dimensions of the Endangered Species Act in relation to environmental justice and biocultural rights. I concluded that a bottom-up co-management approach with polycentric networks best fits the social-cultural system of Guåhan. I propose Indigenous participation and the creation of an advisory council, comprising traditional and scientific knowledge holders, to advise on biocultural diversity preservation in the Mariana Islands.
  • Brooks Range perennial snowfields : mapping and modeling change in Alaska's cryosphere

    Tedesche, Molly E.; Barnes, David L.; Fassnacht, Steven R.; Trochim, Erin D.; Wolken, Gabriel J. (2021-08)
    Perennial snowfields, such as those found in the Brooks Range of Alaska, are a critical component of the cryosphere. They serve as habitat for an array of wildlife, some of which are crucial for rural subsistence hunters. Snowfields also influence hydrology, vegetation, permafrost, and have the potential to preserve valuable archaeological artifacts. In this study, perennial snowfield extents in the Brooks Range are derived from satellite remote sensing, field acquired data, and snowmelt modeling. The remote sensing data are used to map and quantify snow cover area changes across multiple temporal scales, spatial resolutions, and geographic sub-domains. Perennial snowfield classification techniques were developed using optical multi-spectral imagery from NASA Landsat and European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellites. A Synthetic Aperture Radar change detection algorithm was also developed to quantify snow cover area using Sentinel-1 data. Results of the remote sensing analyses were compared to helicopter and manually collected field data. Also, a snowfield melt model was developed using an adaptation of the temperature index method to determine probability of melt via binary logistic regression in two dimensions. The logistic temperature melt model considers summer season snow cover area changes per pixel in remotely sensed products and relationships to several independent variables, including elevation-lapse-adjusted air temperature and terrain-adjusted solar radiation. Evaluations of the Synthetic Aperture Radar change detection algorithm via comparison with results from optical imagery analysis, as well as via comparison with field acquired data, indicate that the radar algorithm performs best in small, focused geographic sub-domains. The multi-spectral approach appears to perform similarly well within multiple geographic domain sizes. This may be the result of synthetic aperture radar algorithm dependency on backscatter thresholding techniques and slope corrections in mountainous complex topography. Results indicate that perennial snowfield extents in the Brooks Range are decreasing over decadal time scales, with short-lived, interannual and seasonal increases. Results also show that perennial snowfields are more persistent at higher elevations over time with notable consistency in at least one of the Brooks Range sub-domains of this study, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Climate change may be altering the distribution, elevation, melt behavior, and overall extents of the Brooks Range perennial snowfields. Such changes could have significant implications for hydrology, wildlife, vegetation, and subsistence hunting in rural Alaska.
  • The catalyst for contemporary jihad: the religious leaders and their strategies

    DeWitt, Ronnie; Duke, Rob; Skya, Walter; Sine, Don; Botros, Maged; Boylan, Brandon (2021-08)
    This dissertation provides insight in the methodologies utilized by leaders of jihadist terrorist organizations who create a dedicated following in their pursuit of establishing a global caliphate. The research in this project illustrates a linkage from these charismatic leaders to the sacred edicts of the Koran, the Hadith, the Sunna, Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence), and the prophet Muhammad. Moreover, it bears out a unique perspective in academic national security studies which delves deeper than similar published works regarding subject matter focused on both violent and stealth jihad (also known as the non-violent usurpation of non-Islamic cultures). These subjects are discussed in detail with real-world examples that focus on the surreptitious use of political propaganda and sustaining influence, which are key ingredients necessary to recruit empathetic followers into doing the bidding of Islamic-based terrorist organizations. Without studying the psychological aspect that motivates potential terrorists it would be a daunting task to develop countermeasures in defeating this global threat. This dissertation also reviews key literature related to this concept. This investigative study bears out a perspective that uniquely differs from any previously published work in this discipline due to the author's professional experience outside of academic research. This will become clear in chapter seven which focuses upon the infamous Day of Terror trial in the Southern District of New York Federal Court in 1995. This episode, coupled with other evidence, will prove that jihadists have been striving to establish a global Islamist caliphate by utilizing terrorism and cultural usurpation.
  • Iliamna Lake ethnogeography: Yup'ik place names and sense of place

    Kugo, Yoko; Charles, Walkie; Ehrlander, Mary; Holton, Gary; Koskey, Michael; McCartney, Leslie (2021-05)
    This dissertation explores Iliamna Lake ethnogeography, the physical and mental understanding of the landscape, by researching Yup'ik place names and stories about these places from Iliamna Lake Yup'ik perspectives (Yupiit iingitgun). Many Yup'ik place names were forgotten after Euro-Americans arrived and introduced modern education in the early twentieth century. Some Iliamna Lake Yup'ik Elders remember Indigenous place names even though the subsistence resources in the places have declined or they no longer travel there due to environmental and cultural changes. Prompted by the declining population of Iliamna Lake Yup'ik speakers, along with their knowledge, the Iliamna Lake communities requested this study of Iliamna Lake Yup'ik place names and narratives about the places. Using two methods, oral history and a community-based participatory approach, the community participants and the author recorded 219 Yup'ik and over 100 contemporary place names during eight ethnographic field trips conducted from 2016 to 2019. This dissertation used two analytical methods--grounded theory and mindful inquiry--to categorize place names in themes that are relevant to Iliamna Lake community perspectives. This research revealed that place names and stories about these places illustrate community histories, lifeways, and cultural ethics and practices that are grounded in the people's intimate relationships with their homeland. Telling and retelling these stories enables the people to visualize their landscape, while affirming and reinforcing the knowledge and practices that have enabled the Yup'ik people to survive and thrive in the region for many generations. Ethnogeography addresses how these cultural landscapes intertwine with local histories and changes in land use from insider perspectives. Yup'ik names and stories related to these places act as mnemonic pegs or mental landmarks that assist the people in commemorating and continuing to navigate within their homelands. Maintaining their place names with accounts about these places supports Iliamna Lake residents in continuing to share their geographic knowledge, cultural practices, Yugcetun (Central Yup'ik language), and community histories, thereby enhancing community cohesiveness, which in turn promotes community and ecological well-being.
  • Atmospheric modeling of natural hazards

    Hirtl, Marcus; Stuefer, Martin; Webley, Peter; Simpson, William; Grell, Georg (2021-05)
    Airborne hazards either in gaseous form or particulate matter can originate from a variety of sources. The most common natural airborne hazards are ash and SO₂ released during volcanic eruptions, smoke emitted caused by wildfires and dust storms. Once released into the atmosphere they can have a significant impact on different parts of the environment e.g. air quality, soil and water, as well as air traffic and ground transportation networks. This latter field is an important aspect of everyday life that is affected during hazardous events. Aviation is one of the most critical ways of transport in this century. Even short interruptions in flight schedules can lead to major economic damages. Volcanic eruptions comprise one of the most important airborne hazards to aviation. These are considered rare as compared to severe weather, but with an extremely high impact. This dissertation focusses on dispersion modeling tools and how they can support emergency response during different phases of volcanic eruption events. The impact of the volcanic ash cloud on the prediction of meteorological parameters and furthermore the dispersion of the ash is demonstrated by applying the Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) model with on-line integrated chemical transport (WRF-Chem) to simulate the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland. Comprehensive observational data sets have been collected to evaluate the model and to show the added value of integrating direct-feedback processes into the simulations. The case of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption showed the necessity to further develop the volcanic emission preprocessor of WRF-Chem which has been extended for flexible and complex ash and SO₂ source terms. Furthermore, the thesis describes how scientists could support operational centers to mitigate hazards during a large volcanic eruption event. The author of the dissertation coordinated a large exercise including experts across all Europe within a project funded by the European Union. The exercise aimed to develop and test new tools, models, and data to support real-time decision making in aviation flight planning during a volcanic crisis event. New state-of-the-art modeling applications were integrated into a flight planning software during a fictitious eruption of the Etna volcano in Italy with contributions from scientists, the military and the aviation community.
  • Integration of remote sensing technologies into Arctic oil spill response

    Garron, Jessica I.; Meyer, Franz; Trainor, Sarah; La Belle-Hamer, Nettie; Lee, Olivia; Mahoney, Andrew (2020-12)
    Identifying the tools and pathways to successful integration of landscape level science into decision-making processes is vital for quality environmental stewardship. Remote sensing information can provide critical facts to decision makers that historically were only available via manned airplane flights and ground truthing expeditions. Remote locations like the Arctic are well suited for monitoring with remote sensing tools due to the lack of transportation infrastructure and communications bandwidth. Remote sensing tools can be valuable when monitoring specific Arctic targets like ocean going vessels, sea ice, coastal erosion, off-shore resource development infrastructure, and oil spills. This dissertation addresses how to mount a more efficient and informed response to Arctic oil spills by capitalizing on available RS tools. I posed three research questions to frame this work, 1) What remote sensing tools are currently available, as compared to those currently used in the Incident Command Structure of an oil spill response? 2) Are there barriers to additional remote sensing tool use for oil spill response support? 3) What process changes can improve or increase remote sensing data use in oil spill detection and response? I conducted a four-phased, exploratory sequential mixed methodological study to examine current remote sensing capacity and solutions to expand remote sensing use in support of oil spill response. Phase One defined the remote sensing tools available to support oil spill response, identified how those tools are being used in support of oil spill response actions, and was used as the foundational research to inform the following phases of the study. Phase Two used cloud-processing resources to establish an automated oil detection pipeline. Phase Three addressed human-driven barriers to remote sensing tool use identified in phase one through remote sensing tool training, knowledge coproduction, and remote sensing data integration into oil spill response exercises. Synthesizing all components of Phases One, Two and Three, a remote sensing protocol for the use of unmanned aircraft systems in support of oil spill response was developed and integrated into U.S. Coast Guard operational policy in Alaska to complete Phase Four of this research. This research identifies opportunities and solutions that support improved Arctic oil spill response decision-making through the application of remote sensing data and information.
  • Assessing adverse effects of mercury in two pinniped species

    Lian, Marianne; O'Hara, Todd M.; Rea, Lorrie D.; Kuhn, Thomas B.; Van Wijngaarden, Edwin (2020-08)
    This dissertation studies measures of adverse effects in free-ranging pinnipeds associated with relatively high total mercury ([THg]) or monomethylmercury ([MeHg+]) concentrations, relatively low total selenium ([TSe]) concentrations and/or low TSe:THg molar ratios. Both the Steller sea lion (SSL, Eumetopias jubatus) and Pacific harbor seal (HS, Phoca vitulina richardii) inhabit coasts of the North Pacific, and are considered important sentinel species for One Health (environmental, animal and human health). Relatively high [THg] is reported for some animals in both species, causing concern for adverse effects especially in the developing fetus. Maternal piscivorous diet can expose the fetus to MeHg⁺ at a vulnerable developmental stage, with potential for adverse effects on several organ systems. This dissertation focused on two of these: nervous system development and function and oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis. In Chapter 2 I outlined capture and field anesthesia of free-ranging SSL. I found faster induction times for sevoflurane over isoflurane, with a significant interaction for anesthetist. Difference among the two agents is most likely attributed to the different chemical properties for these gases (blood solubility), whereas personal experience/comfort level most likely explains the differences between the human operators. Severe hypothermia was also documented, associated with the time of year, sex and duration of anesthetic event. There was an overall low mortality rate, and the protocols were effective for relatively safe field anesthesia of a large mammal. Chapter 3 assessed oxidant/antioxidant status and associations with [THg], [MeHg⁺], [TSe] and TSe:THg molar ratio in anesthetized free-ranging SSL pups. The anesthesia protocols described in Chapter 2 were used as a physiological stressor for measuring oxidative stress in SSL. Pinnipeds as diving mammals are naturally adapted with high antioxidant activity to survive long breath-holds during foraging. However, the relatively high [THg] found in some SSL cause concern for sequestration of Se due to its high binding affinity to Hg, and subsequently decreased antioxidant capacity (Se-dependent glutathione peroxidase (GPx)). I found a significant negative relationship between lipid peroxidation and [TSe], suggesting the potential for decreased antioxidant protection from Se. There were also significant associations between increased GPx activity and lipid peroxidation, possibly protecting pups with relatively high [THg] and low TSe:THg molar ratios. In Chapter 4 I repeatedly evaluated live-stranded HS pups admitted to The Marine Mammal Center, using weekly clinical and behavior assessments, which were analyzed for associations with [THg]. There was a significant association between [THg] in hair and/or blood and decreased response to tactile stimulation, less movement and longer stays in rehabilitation. These findings will help us better assess similar [THg] in hair and blood of SSL in Alaska that we currently study as well as other pinnipeds. In summary, this dissertation confirms the potential for adverse effects in two free-ranging species of pinnipeds exposed to MeHg⁺ in utero.
  • Cultural adaptations of evidence based practices in supporting children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

    James, Krista P.; Barnhardt, Raymond; Leonard, Beth; Wells, Cassie; Healy, Joanne (2020-08)
    Research shows that early identification and intervention result in a higher quality of life and contribution to society for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As society sees an ever-increasing percentage of individuals diagnosed with ASD, identification of culturally responsive, evidence-based practices is of critical importance. While the National Autism Center has provided a guide to evidence-based practices, minimal research has been done to determine if these practices are culturally relevant. This is a community-based formative research project. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the cultural appropriateness of the practices identified as "evidence-based practices" by the National Autism Center in the 2015 standards report, specifically a token economy system which is a positive behavioral support that utilizes the principles of applied behavior analysis to decrease challenging behaviors and increase positive behaviors. The study utilized qualitative research strategies, including surveys and interviews within the American Samoan community, to accomplish this evaluation. The surveys and interviews were analyzed using coding principles to generate themes. The researcher was contacted by the American Samoan Department of Education to provide training for educators and parents on utilizing evidence-based practices to support children with autism. The results of this study inform the content of the ongoing training efforts.
  • Beyond trending: using risking connection as a framework for moving agency culture toward trauma-informed care

    Healey, Michael J.; Renes, Susan L.; Strange, Anthony; Baker, Courtney; Anahita, Sine (2020-08)
    The prevalence and pervasive impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and more broadly, trauma, are well supported in the extant literature. Despite this evidence, there remains a significant dearth of formal training and educational programs that prepare staff who work with trauma survivors within complex behavioral health systems. Trauma-informed care (TIC) has moved beyond a trend in the mental health field and is gaining momentum as a leading philosophical paradigm that is being infused as an operational framework for agencies that work with survivors. Risking Connection (RC) is a curriculum-based training program that works with agencies interested in becoming trauma-informed. The current study examined the impact of RC on trainee outcomes for knowledge gain, attitude change, and vicarious trauma (VT) on 119 participants who all work for a therapeutic group home system being operated by a provincial government in Atlantic Canada. The findings in this study suggest that RC is effective in improving knowledge gain and attitude change in a favorable direction toward TIC. The study also supported previous findings associated with the improvement of VT.
  • Coming together at the table: partnering with urban Alaska Native families for their children's school success

    Roth, Karen L.; Vinlove, Amy; Topkok, Sean Asiqluq; Williams, Maria Shaa Tlaa; Jester, Timothy (2019-05)
    There is abundant research regarding the positive effects of family engagement as a factor in P-12 student success. Partnerships between home and school provide opportunities for students' families and educators to establish common goals and share meaning about the purpose of schooling. Unfortunately, mainstream outreach practices by Western educators have often failed to nurture authentic relationships with Indigenous families. This may be a contributing factor in lower academic success for too many Indigenous students. Historical educational practices in the U.S. for Indigenous students such as mandated attendance at distant boarding schools and English-only policies have adversely affected their languages and cultures worldwide and left a legacy of negative associations around schooling for many Native peoples. Non-Native educators continue to add to this disconnect with teaching pedagogies and curricula that are not responsive to Indigenous lifeways and values. In addition to inappropriate instructional methods and content, outreach strategies of non-Native educators may add to practices that marginalize Indigenous students and their families and discourage collaboration between home and school. This mixed-methods study sought to find family outreach strategies implemented by early childhood educators in the Anchorage School District (ASD) that build and nurture more culturally sustaining and relational approaches to building partnerships with Alaska Native families. Such practices are more likely to lead to student success for Native students. Research methods used were (a) a content analysis of ASD school-home communication fliers, (b) a survey of ASD preschool teachers on their outreach beliefs and practices with Native families, and (c) interviews with families of Alaska Native students.