Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) helps us understand how our environment is changing through time and how past events such as shifts in ocean currents or the arrival of new species impact ecosystems over long time scales. The extended tenure of LTER sites also engenders relationships with local communities so that citizens are engaged with ecological research, which in turn helps ensure the longevity of the site.
The Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystems (BLE) LTER program was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2017 and is based out of three nodes along the Beaufort Sea coast: Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Deadhorse, and Kaktovik. At each node, we deploy instruments and collect samples in nearby lagoon systems, each with their own unique characteristics. This research provides a much needed mechanism for tracking and understanding 1) how natural climate cycles influence coastal ecosystems in the Arctic, and 2) how climate change effects such as permafrost thaw, shifting precipitation regimes, and losses of sea ice alter coastal ecosystems thorough effects on inputs, nutrient cycling, and ocean mixing.
Our fieldwork takes place within the homeland of the Iñupiat, whose subsistence lifestyles are built upon strong traditions and beliefs. We recognize the Iñupiat’s fundamental understanding of their natural surroundings and their strong sense of place. The co-production of knowledge is important in our joint efforts to understand the ecological functioning of these systems.
We honor the people who have acted as stewards of this land since time immemorial, and respect the significant traditional ecological knowledge that is passed down by elders. We engage with local communities in multiple ways. We hold regular, open meetings with the communities of Kaktovik and Utqiaġvik, as well as with Traditional Knowledge holders in Kaktovik. This project also includes a strong commitment to K-12 Programs in Kaktovik and Utqiaġvik and offers employment opportunities to native high school seniors or recently graduated students living in these villages as field research assistants.
BLE follows LTER Data Policies, which typically means data are made publicly available within two years of collection. Each dataset includes metadata describing the data use agreement, the two most common for our case being CC BY (free to use with attribution) and CC0 (public domain). You can find data in our Data Catalog.
BLE personnel are expected to abide by the following policies to promote a fair, ethical, and productive organization.