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Environmental Studies Professor gets NSF Grant

Associate Professor Jon Rosales is awarded a National Science Foundation grant to pursue his climate research. Jon Rosales, associate professor of environmental studies, and Jessica Chapman, associate professor of statistics, were awarded $90,366 for their project, titled “Reducing Scientific Uncertainty of Storm Trends in Savoonga and Shaktoolik, Alaska with Traditional Knowledge.”

Rosales and his co-collaborators at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will conduct a two-year research study in remote Alaskan villages, including two located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, where local indigenous populations possess traditional ecological knowledge about climate changes in their region. Chapman will conduct a statistical analysis of the data that is collected by the research team.

While scientific literature indicates that climate change has likely increased the intensity of storms in the north Pacific since the 1950s, there is no direct evidence yet of the local claims.

“Villagers claim that storms are now stronger and more dangerous than previous decades,” Rosales said. “If successful, this project will verify a widely-held claim by traditional and local knowledge holders in Savoonga and Shaktoolik that storm intensity is increasing, which could be used by government authorities working on climate change adaptation plans.”

In the Siberian Yupik tradition of these villages, babies are named after storms to remember those events. Rosales will generate a storm map by combining birthdates with an analysis of driftwood accumulations in order to substantiate claims by villagers that storms have, in fact, intensified over recent decades.

Rosales took two students – Margaret Mauch ’17 of Massena, New York and Gunnar Ohlson ’17 of Frisco, Colorado – to these villages over the summer to meet with village elders and learn more about meaning of the names and if they do, in fact, relate to storm events. He will take another student to Alaska continue the project in the summer of 2017.