Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 547–559 | Cite as

Community-based observing networks and systems in the Arctic: Human perceptions of environmental change and instrument-derived data

  • Paula WilliamsEmail author
  • Lilian Alessa
  • John T. Abatzoglou
  • Andrew Kliskey
  • Frank Witmer
  • Olivia Lee
  • Jamie Trammell
  • Grace Beaujean
  • Rieken Venema
Original Article


Many papers have addressed the differing approaches to observation by scientists collecting instrumented data and by community or local knowledge-based observations. Integrating these ways of knowing is difficult because they operate at different scales and have different goals. It would benefit both scientists and communities to integrate community-based observations and instrumented data, despite obstacles, because it would expand scales of observation and because gauged data in the Arctic are sparse. This requires development of a protocol to integrate these knowledge systems to maximize reliability and validity. We used survey data from a community-based observing network in the Bering Sea and examined the correspondence of community-based observations with instrument-derived data for air temperature, sea ice break-up and freeze-up, and vegetation changes. Results highlight that there is a high correspondence between community-based observations for sea ice and vegetation change and instrumented data, but there is an inherent conflict in scales of observation for air temperature data. This helps to elucidate the benefits of community-based observing as a process for understanding and responding to change in the Arctic.


Community-based observing Community-based observing networks Local place-based knowledge Perception Environmental change Instrumented data 



We would like to thank the residents of the villages of Nikolskoye, Tymlat, Kanchalan, Togiak, Sand Point, Savoonga, and Gambell for their contributions to BSSN and CONAS observing networks on which this study is based. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (awards #0856774, #0856305, #1355238, and #1642847). The views of the authors are an official finding of the Center for Resilient Communities but do not reflect those of the National Science Foundation, Aleut International Association, the Native communities who participated in this study, the Alaska Center for Conservation Science, or the University of Alaska. We acknowledge support of the Arctic Alaska Observatory and Knowledge Hub through Community Service Payments made by a corporate defendant convicted of Federal environmental and maritime crimes. This study is also funded by Alaska EPSCoR NSF award #OIA-1208927 and the state of Alaska.

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1220_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (797 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 797 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Resilient CommunitiesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.International Arctic Research CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.Aleut International AssociationAnchorageUSA

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