Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Day Discussing the Barrow Environmental Observatory…

While my primary focus in Barrow is science, it is important to point out that the NGEE Arctic team chose the Arctic Coastal Plain on the North Slope of Alaska as its initial area of research for a reason; the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). The BEO encompasses 7,500 acres of Arctic tundra that was set aside by the village of Barrow for national and international research. Every year several hundred scientists come here to study Arctic ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine.  In addition to providing access to the outdoor laboratories, the community of Barrow has built a modern research facility where scientists can undertake analyses while away from their home institution. These resources, and logistical support provided by UMIAQ, have made it possible for our team to get off to a quick, productive, and safe start.

Resources like the BEO and the Barrow Arctic Research Center (BARC) must be managed so that these can sustainably meet the needs of a growing community of users. Therefore, an Advisory Committee has been formed to provide feedback on the policies and procedures for managing the BEO. Today was the first meeting of that advisory group. Our agenda was a simple one, but nonetheless the scope of which will grow given the significance of the Arctic and the North Slope of Alaska to climate-related research across multiple state and federal agencies, and private companies.
The advisory committee stayed focused today on the job at hand; how to protect the natural resource while ensuring that once in Barrow scientists have the support they need to be successful. This includes, but is certainly not limited to aspects of access (e.g., trail mat or boardwalks), power, and infrastructure. One of the challenges to managing any resource is anticipating the needs of scientists who are now, or in the future might decide, to work on the BEO. Tomorrow morning I will present an overview of the NGEE Arctic project and communicate our research needs for the coming year and beyond. Other scientists attending the meeting will do the same. In addition, we know that new projects will be located on the BEO in the coming years (i.e., NEON) and those requirements must also be considered in future planning.

Finally, the Barrow area has a rich history of Arctic research that will undoubtedly continue into the coming decades. The people of Barrow are well aware of the role they and their community have played in this endeavor. Scientists working on the BEO and in the larger surrounding area will need to stay focused if they are to keep pace with the increasing depth and breadth of questions being asked about the changing Arctic.