The North Pacific Research Board's (NPRB) Arctic Program is the newest integrated ecosystem research program (IERP) to date. The Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (IERP) will invest approximately $16 million in studying marine processes in the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas in 2017-2021, beginning in the summer of 2017. The program is sponsored by NPRB, Collaborative Alaskan Arctic Studies Program (formerly the North Slope Borough/Shell Baseline Studies Program), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the Office of Naval Research Marine Mammals and Biology Program. Generous in-kind support has been contributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This coordinated program was developed in cooperation with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee Chukchi and Beaufort Sea Ecosystem Collaboration Team and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
Why Study the Arctic?
Arctic research has been ongoing for several decades, yet there is still a clear need for additional studies to better understand the processes driving the Arctic marine ecosystem as a whole—even more so as Arctic sea ice continues to retreat at an increasing rate. Changes in sea ice timing, presence, extent, or thickness will have profound influences on coastal communities, marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, plankton, and oceanography.
Who is participating in the science?
The program will integrate observations collected during spring, summer, and fall in 2017, 2018, and 2019 to better understand how reduced Arctic sea ice and associated environmental changes influence the flow of energy through the marine ecosystem from plankton to fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and humans. Late spring and early summer sampling will occur in 2017 and 2018 aboard the R/V Sikuliaq. Late summer and early fall sampling will occur in 2017 and 2019; a research vessel for this portion of the program has not been determined.
Social science will be conducted by a team that includes Principal Investigators from the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Boroughs and the Bering Strait region. This project will develop meaningful interaction with Alaska Native communities to explore changing patterns of access to subsistence resources and food security.
A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks will use the icebreaker Sikuliaq to conduct process studies of oceanography and lower trophic levels during late May-early June as sea ice retreats from the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas. They will conduct onboard incubations to measure growth, respiration and deposition rates of phytoplankton and zooplankton and will examine how physical processes structure the Chukchi Sea shelf ecosystem. Moored instruments will record oceanographic conditions and the presence of vocalizing marine mammals in the study area year-round.
ARCTIC IES SURVEY
During summer and fall, a team of scientists led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will conduct observations of oceanography, lower trophic levels, fish, and seabirds over the U.S. Chukchi Sea shelf from Bering Strait to Barrow. They will examine in detail the physical and ecological factors that influence the distribution of fish.