Climatic Change

, Volume 121, Issue 2, pp 285–299 | Cite as

Identifying the exposure of two subsistence villages in Alaska to climate change using traditional ecological knowledge

  • Jonathan Andrew Ignatowski
  • Jon RosalesEmail author


Dramatic climatic change in the Arctic elevates the importance of determining the risk of exposure for people living in vulnerable areas and developing effective adaptation programs. Climate change assessment reports are valuable, and often definitive, sources of information for decision makers when constructing adaptation plans, yet the scope of these reports is too coarse to identify site-specific exposure to the impacts of climate change and adaptation needs. Subsistence hunters and gatherers in the Arctic are valuable knowledge holders of climate-related change in their area. Incorporating both their traditional ecological knowledge and information found in climate science assessment reports can offer adaption planners a deeper understanding of exposure to climate change and local adaptation needs. In this study, we compare information found in assessment reports of climate change in the Arctic with what we have learned from the Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge project from 2009 to 2012, a research project documenting traditional ecological knowledge in two Native villages in Alaska, Savoonga and Shaktoolik. Content analysis of the interviews with hunters and gatherers reveal the site-specific impacts of climate change affecting these two villages. We find that their traditional ecological knowledge is complimentary and largely corroborates the climate science found in assessment reports. Traditional ecological knowledge, however, is more current to the social and local conditions of the villages, and presents a more unified social and biophysical portrayal of the impacts of climate change. If taken together, these two forms of knowledge can focus adaptation planning on the pertinent needs of the communities in question.


Indigenous People Climate Change Impact Assessment Report Adaptation Plan Traditional Ecological Knowledge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the residents of Savoonga and Shaktoolik who welcomed us in to their villages and homes, and to the Tribal Councils for their consent to do this work. We are particularly grateful to Perry Pungowiyi and Carole Sookiayak for their outstanding work in coordinating this project in their villages. Thanks to Emma Kearney, Meredith Kenney, and Elizabeth Atwood for their help with interviews and to Matilda Larson for generating Fig. 1. We thank the reviewers for their close examinations of the manuscript which dramatically improved this publication. This work is funded by an internal grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We dedicate this study to Morris Toolie, Sr. whose knowledge of his landscape lives on.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LibrarySt. Lawrence UniversityCantonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental StudiesSt. Lawrence UniversityCantonUSA

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