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Addressing Challenges In Communicating Arctic Climate Research: Reflections

May 11, 2022

The Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Project (ACLIM) is an interdisciplinary team of 50+ scientists and professionals. This project uses integrative computer modeling to study issues posed by climate change on the Bering Sea and evaluate solutions.

Dungeness crab pots stacked on a pier next to a faded and weathered sign. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Climate change is universal. Addressing its impacts will require the collaboration of many professions. The Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling Project’s (ACLIM) framework provides a refreshing outlook on the future of assessing impacts and how we can adapt together.

“That sort of interaction is really key to pulling us together, because all these moving parts are linked.” -Kerim Aydin, Supervisory Fisheries Biologist, AFSC

ACLIM: A Novel Framework, Shared Values, Diverse Disciplines

Through ACLIM there are many professions working together to assess the impacts of changing climate conditions and effectiveness of different management tools to maintain sustainable fisheries. However, scientists involved in the project see greater value to its successes. I want to dive deeper into how novel the ACLIM team’s integrative approach is.

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A portrait of Steve Barbeaux. Credit: NOAA Fisheries
Steve Barbeaux is a research biologist with the Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Division. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

A Replicable Framework

Steve Barbeaux produces fish stock assessments for resource managers each year as a research biologist with the Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Division. Resource managers use stock assessments to develop management measures for commercial fisheries and subsistence communities. He believes that within ACLIM’s interdisciplinary team is a framework in which scientists understand current and future issues for adaptation to climate change. Barbeaux believes ACLIM’s success lies in its ability to inform both scientists and the general public about possible climate scenarios and how fisheries management can adapt.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

ACLIM’s interdisciplinary research approach presents challenges and opportunities.

“It’s a bit of an adventure,” said Andre Punt. “My background is in mathematics and statistics. But oceanographers, who use models like I do, have a completely different background where they don’t really manage statistics like I do.”

While communication is key, it is also sometimes a difficult, but a welcome challenge. “The fact that this project is as integrated as it is, is really innovative,” he shared.

Kerim Aydin has been with the project since its origins. A supervisory fisheries biologist, he described the value of ACLIM’s diversity.

“That sort of interaction is really key to pulling us together, because all these moving parts are linked.”

According to Aydin, working with over 50 scientists with backgrounds in a variety of scientific disciplines can be challenging. It’s difficult to achieve consensus.

“We also use a lot of scientific terminology, unique to our specific disciplines… This makes it hard to synthesize the collective research.”

However, Aydin values the information flow and assessment of research from all angles.

Sustainable Frameworks For Future Sustainable Fisheries

Anne Hollowed sees value in the integrative framework that is being developed through ACLIM. She also sees this as an important tool for helping to train the next generation of ocean scientists. Educating young researchers brings her joy.

When asked," what will the successes of ACLIM look like?" Anne described the flow of information to decision making.

“We can bring forward viable harvest and adaptation scenarios for the fishing industry and resource managers to consider and make informed choices....”

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The port of Westport, Washington where longline fishers and crabbers from California through Alaska bring their ships to port. Credit: NOAA Fisheries
Busy port communities, like those of northwestern Washington, regularly see boats from Alaska commercial fishing communities. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Reflections

During my internship at NOAA Fisheries, I witnessed immense passion and dedication. The scientists were optimistic and pragmatic, even as we discussed climate change.

I’ve come to understand the significance of the project's integrative approach and its innovation. This diverse collective of academic and scientific professionals combine a range of scientific perspectives. However, there are challenges despite the project’s innovation in its integration.

Climate change will impact our global ecosystems and the communities within them differently.

Currently, in the Bering Sea, coastal communities are witnessing impacts of rising ocean temperatures and loss of sea ice. However, the ACLIM project provides a fresh take on how we can assess data to provide the best possible information for resource managers. Communities are working directly with managers and North Pacific Fisheries Management Council members. Involving stakeholders in climate and ocean research is vital to the project.

An integrative approach means a dynamic team. Collaboration with stakeholders means assessing every avenue of adaptation while keeping the wellbeing of the ecosystems, communities and scientists aligned. Effective communication between these groups must be continuously addressed to inform management and global research communities best. However, the ACLIM team sees the value in tackling this challenge.

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