|Title:||Biophysical drivers and socioecological impacts of environmental change on Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta|
|Date:||Friday, 28 February 2020|
|Location:||Murie Life Science Bldg, Murie Auditorium|
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) is one of the most biologically productive areas of the Arctic tundra biome and supports one of the largest indigenous human populations in the Arctic. However, the YKD’s relatively warm climate regime, proximity to the coast, and low elevation make the region highly vulnerable to rapid and persistent change following shifts about basic physical and thermal thresholds. The YKD also presents a strong confluence of environmental change processes, natural hazards, critical habitats for wildlife, and a large subsistence-based human population with high cultural vitality. Satellite- and field-based observations on land and adjacent waters of the Bering Sea indicate that the YKD has already undergone widespread environmental change in recent decades. Satellite-observed trends of vegetation productivity since the early 1980s are idiosyncratic relative to circumpolar trends, indicating strong declines that contrast with widespread “greening” observed elsewhere in the Low Arctic. The region's diverse landscapes also experience a variety of ecological disturbances, from coastal floods to tundra fire. In this talk I will present results from a series of studies that integrate remote-sensing, fieldwork, and the rich knowledge-base of YKD residents to understand the drivers and impacts of ecological change on the YKD. I hope to spur a discussion of whether current dynamics on the YKD foretell changes likely to be seen in the future Arctic, or are unique to this corner of Beringia—and whether today's YKD even fits historical concepts of “what is Arctic.”
I have a multidisciplinary research background focused on boreal forest and Arctic tundra ecosystems, with over twenty years of field experience in Alaska and northwestern Siberia. I attended UAF as an undergraduate and completed a B.S. in Biological Sciences in 1999. After stints at the National Park Service and Fairbanks-based Alaska Biological Research, Inc., I attended the University of Virginia where I completed a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences in 2013. Afterward I returned to Fairbanks and ABR, where my recent work has focused on vegetation classification and mapping, interactions and feedbacks between vegetation and permafrost, plant-landform-soil relationships, ecological disturbance processes in permafrost landscapes, and landscape change detection. My research integrates field measurements with a variety of modern and historical remote-sensing datasets to elucidate current ecosystem conditions and long-term change.
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