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Ikaaġvik Sikukun is a research project that couples state-of-the-art geophysical observations from unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with a community-engaged research approach to bridge scientific and Indigenous understanding of sea ice change in Kotzebue Sound.

Our research team represents a partnership between academic researchers and the Native Village of Kotzebue and includes expertise in ice and ocean physics, marine biology, ethnography and documentary filmmaking. The research will take place in and around the community of Kotzebue, Alaska, which lies within Kotzebue Sound on the coast of southern Chukchi Sea. Sea ice is integral to the way of life for Kotzebue’s Indigenous residents who rely on the marine mammals that inhabit the ice pack for food and clothing.

Our study plan begins and ends with the involvement of community members to help craft research questions, collect observations and synthesize our findings. Ultimately, the findings will contribute to predictive assessments of the changing cryosphere of Kotzebue Sound, the implications of such change for the ecology and the Iñupiaq way of life that is dependent upon it. Through this approach, we will address key questions concerning the mechanisms and impacts of rapid changes taking place in the Arctic while ensuring that our answers incorporate traditional ways of knowing and are relevant to local needs.