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Planning for a Changing Landscape in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay: a Collaborative Approach

July 17, 2013

Homer and its surrounding Kachemak Bay is embedded in a diverse, dynamic landscape. A powerful earthquake rocked south central Alaska in 1964, and the coast is still uplifting from that event today.

Ice fields in the south central and southeastern parts of the state are melting rapidly, lightening their load on the earth’s surface and causing another form of coastal uplift — isostatic rebound. Meltwater from these ice fields flows into the nearshore Alaska Coastal Current, contributing to regional sea level rise.

In the balance of these conflicting forces are the communities surrounding Kachemak Bay, which depend on nearshore fisheries for food and safe harbor infrastructure for transportation.

In 2009, the mayor of Homer, Alaska, and other local community leaders had approached the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve (KBRR). The request was motivated by a series of newspaper articles about coastal uplift and personal observations of a change in coastal terrain.

To plan for a future in this uncertain landscape, local communities need to understand the implications that coastal uplift and sea level rise have for coastal erosion patterns, infrastructure construction and protection, planning, zoning, local food resources, and public safety.  A team led by the KBRR is helping to meet that need by assessing the rate of vertical changes in the coastal landscape encircling Kachemak Bay and monitoring the impacts of coastal uplift, glacial melt, and sea level rise on biological communities. The project team is using the principles of Collaborative Learning to connect investigators, the Community Council, and core intended users of the science, which include coastal decision-makers.

Below are three videos that tell the tale of this research and the collaborative engagement of end-users and the local community. These videos were produced by Kenny Dahr, University of New Hampshire, and Megan Murphy, our former KBRR Coastal Training Program Coordinator.  Kenny spent a six-month internship with KBRR as part of his graduate studies and the production of these videos were part of his graduate degree in communicating science to coastal decision-makers.

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