The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain was recently opened to oil development. This change in management brings a greater need to report and publicize the environmental resources at stake. This project will create an atlas of maps that will inform a broad audience including agency decision-makers, scientists, Congressional staff, and environmental groups. The maps will become part of a synthesis report detailing the biological and cultural resources of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. The intern will organize, analyze, and map geospatial data on cultural, recreational, and biological resources including the distribution of fish, birds, and mammals. To the extent possible, we will overlay energy resources, climate change projections, and development scenarios to evaluate pressures on areas of ecological significance, and make recommendations about conservation areas to be avoided by industrial development.
We have extensive biological and physical datasets to support this project. Audubon Alaska hosts and stewards the best-available bird database for Alaska, tracking over 40 years of observation and abundance surveys of bird species from American Golden-Plovers to Yellow-Billed Loons. In addition, Audubon has already collected spatially explicit data on a wide range of taxa from polar bear denning sites to caribou seasonal habitat use. For physical data, our geodatabases include a suite of climate change variables (such as rate of permafrost melt and projected change in length of growing season), 2.5m-resolution ortho-imagery, and local and regional hydrology.
The fellow will bring together a wide range of disparate data into a cohesive and informative atlas of maps, using skills that emphasize an understanding of ecology, spatial analysis/modeling, and cartography. The analyst will assess additional data needs and work with agencies and academics to access those data. Data gaps are a challenge in this remote area, and many of the available data are observational survey locations or broad-scale distributions of varying quality. This project will require creating mid-scale data that will be useful for planning across a region approximately 1.5 million acres in size. The analyst will perform spatial analysis and species distribution modeling to create, reformat, or downscale datasets. They will integrate species distributions with climate projections and spatial estimates of technically recoverable oil and gas to assess threats and stressors. The analyst will document metadata, mapping and analysis methods, data sources, and relevant scientific publications and reports.
After completion of the project, the maps produced by the analyst will be integrated into a larger report describing the biological and cultural resources of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. The report will describe the maps showing the resources at stake in this undeveloped Arctic ecosystem. The report will highlight key features of the region (e.g. 300,000+ migrating Snow Geese, the highest density of denning polar bears in Alaska) to inform development decisions and encourage the least impactful management alternatives. This will inform comments on leasing, permitting, and developing the coastal plain. In a future, more conservation-friendly political environment, the report and maps will be used to advocate that lawmakers reverse the opening of the Refuge to drilling, and to designate Wilderness for the coastal plain. This will be Audubon’s go-to report to support our advocacy efforts for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.