NSF awards $20 million to Alaska ACE project, UAA co-PI with UAF and UAS

July 25, 2012

EPSCoR logo

The $20 million award from the NSF to Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) will support a five-year research project entitled “Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments (Alaska ACE).” Alaska ACE will conduct biological, physical and social research into the “adaptive capacity” of Alaska communities: that is, the mechanisms that enable communities to effectively respond to environmental and social changes.

“Alaska is made up of a diverse array of social and ecological systems that are undergoing dramatic environmental change,” said UAF Anthropology Professor Peter Schweitzer, the principal investigator of the award. “Alaska is the ideal place to study the ways different types of communities adapt to these changes.”

The project will involve 19 core UA faculty members, more than 20 participating faculty members and eight new faculty hires. Researchers in the study come from a variety of disciplines across the physical, biological and social sciences.

“We’re a national leader in developing the kinds of approaches, tools and methods that are needed to better understand and inform adaptation,” said co-Principal Investigator Lilian Alessa, a professor of biology at the University of Alaska Anchorage and director of the UAA Resilience and Adaptive Management Group. “Alaska ACE will continue to set the trend by advancing our knowledge of social dynamics in changing environments, as well as help provide decision support for Alaska’s sustainable future.”

ACE research will be organized around three regional test cases: the Southcentral Alaska test case will examine the effects of land cover and precipitation changes on fisheries and tourism in the Kenai River watershed. The Northern Alaska case will study how permafrost thaw and land cover change affect subsistence resources around four Interior and Arctic villages. The Southeast Alaska test case will focus on changes to ecosystem services brought on by glacial recession near the Juneau area.

“The test cases strive to build UA’s research capacity to address multi-faceted issues and signify a better balance in its approach to integrating research efforts,” said Sanjay Pyare, an associate professor of geography at the University of Alaska Southeast and the other co-principal investigator of the award. “Rather than organize these cases along disciplinary lines, each case is rooted in geographically relevant social-ecological phenomena.”

Results from the test cases will be used by a statewide Coordination, Integration and Synthesis (CIS) Working Group in order to answer larger scientific questions about adaptation and to create decision-support tools for land and resource managers. In addition to these research efforts, a significant portion of the funding will go toward education, outreach and diversity efforts designed to better engage the public in science.

UAF Vice Chancellor for Research Mark Myers and Lilian Alessa will serve as ACE project co-directors. Pips Veazey of UAF will serve as project administrator.

The award comes through the national NSF EPSCoR program, which was established by Congress to distribute research awards to areas of the country that have traditionally received smaller amounts of federal research funding. Thirty-one states and territories now receive or are eligible for EPSCoR funds.

For more information, visit www.alaska.edu/epscor and www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/epscor/about.jsp.

Contacts: Pips Veazey, adveazey@alaska.edu, (907) 474-5989; Peter Schweitzer, ppschweitzer@alaska.edu, (907) 474-5015

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