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Professor Chapman (Statistics) and Professor Rosales (Env. Studies) Awarded NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation awarded $90,366 to Jessica Chapman, associate professor of statistics, and Jon Rosales, associate professor of environmental studies, for their project, titled “Reducing Scientific Uncertainty of Storm Trends in Savoonga and Shaktoolik, Alaska with Traditional Knowledge."

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

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.

Chapman is also the principal investigator of St. Lawrence’s current “Liberal Arts Science (LAS) Scholars” NSF-funded program, which provides scholarships, faculty mentoring, and academic support to academically talented students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are studying in STEM fields.