Few places experience climate change as strongly as the Arctic. This reality, and the fact that I wanted to develop a case study on public lands and their responses to climate change made Alaska an ideal research location. Unfortunately, Alaska is a very expensive place to get to in the middle of April. Thankfully, the McCroskey Grant helped to make the trip a little less expensive, but no less cold.
I arrived in Fairbanks in April to attend the Alaska Region of the National Park Service’s Climate Change Scenario Planning Workshop with federal land managers from National Parks and stakeholders from around the state. During my research, I participated in the climate change workshop, and learned the scenario planning process as well as other tools of adaptive management. This enabled me to experience the challenges that other participants went through as we all struggled to understand how to make decisions regarding climate change. I also interviewed and formed bonds with Alaska National Park personnel, Alaska Native stakeholders, and workshop participants. Their perspectives provided me with a personal understanding of how the effects of climate change and our response has influenced the lives of many Alaskans in meaningful ways.
After the workshop, I drove the lonely road to Denali National Park to volunteer at the park and conduct more interviews. Every mile offered something new, but my personal favorites were the three moose and the small herd of caribou I saw. Moose and caribou are not immune to the effects of climate change whether it is warmer days and longer seasons that alter migration times, the loss of permafrost and permafrost dependent food sources, or the inability to navigate rising river levels due to rapid glacier melt.
On my final day, I took one last drive down the Park Road, only to see the three moose I had met days before—standing in the middle of the road. I stopped at a safe distance, and slowly reversed watching them trot my way, ushering me out of the park. We have managed to save so much of Alaska for so long, yet we struggle to make decisions regarding climate change which threatens Alaska in many ways. Surely we should be able to figure this out? Here’s hoping.
I am so thankful to the McCroskey Foundation for their support of my master’s thesis research on climate change decision-making in Alaska’s public lands.