Award Number

Project Abstract

Project investigators hold an artist’s doodle sketch of our sixtalk session at the 2020 Alaska Forum on the Environment.Northern communities in Alaska and Canada rely upon productive fisheries. For many of these communities, rivers are used to access fishing and hunting grounds and to transport supplies during ice-free seasons and over river-ice in winter. As the Arctic and its rivers continue to warm, the ultimate impacts on people, their fisheries and winter travel corridors are highly uncertain. Improved understanding of the ongoing and possible future changes requires close partnership among Native groups and researchers from diverse scientific disciplines. This project is a collaboration among the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at North Arizona University (NAU), and two major Canadian universities. The YRITWC is a non-profit organization of 74 First Nations and Tribes that conducts monitoring of the Yukon River Watershed. Three Indigenous interns are working with YRITWC and USGS researchers and staff to enhance the community-based and federal river monitoring networks with automated water quality sensors. The new data are being used by researchers to monitor river conditions and change and to improve computer simulations of rivers, ice, and fish. Outreach to Indigenous K-12 students in the communities where monitoring is being conducted will include traveling lectures and an ask-scientists website. A Native Advisory Council will be formed in Year 1 to provide input into research directions and refinements and to ensure the production of useable outcomes. Importantly, the Council will guide the agenda of a two-day Arctic Rivers Summit in project Year 3 and the selection of 42 Indigenous community members to receive a scholarship to attend the Summit. The Summit will bring together Tribal and First Nation resource managers, Arctic and Boreal community members, and academic, federal, state, and provincial researchers to unify the state of knowledge on Arctic Rivers as a community of observers, investigators, knowledge holders, and stewards. Results from the Summit will include a white paper co-authored by all attendees. Researchers from NCAR and CU are conducting computer simulations of weather, streamflow, river ice, and water temperature for historical and potential future climate conditions over Alaska and western Canada. The data are being used by USGS and CU scientists to assess potential risks to Arctic river fish species. The project results will be communicated through co-produced scenarios jointly developed by all investigators and community members and designed to make future scenarios of Arctic change and potential societal impacts tangible and relatable to a broad audience. Thus, the project is assessing how socially important fish habitat and river-ice transport corridors of Arctic rivers may be impacted by climate-driven environmental changes.

Changes in temperature, precipitation, snowmelt and streamflow timing, ice-cover, permafrost, hydrologic connectivity, river geochemistry, and groundwater are poorly characterized in northern regions, and the integrated effects on rivers and fish are critically unresolved. This project is advancing collective understanding of terrestrial hydrologic change and the potential impacts on rivers, fish, and communities in the Arctic. The project facilitates knowledge co-production through Indigenous community-based monitoring of rivers, Native engagement and oversight, ethnographic methods, and advances in climate, hydrologic, and river-ice, and fish bioenergetic models. Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and Western Science (WS) will be used to co-develop scenarios of past and plausible future conditions. An Arctic Rivers Summit co-developed by Tribal Environmental experts, YRITWC, USGS, and a Native Advisory Council identifying IK and WS baseline conditions of rivers and fish. This includes continuous water quality measurements of major rivers to observe hydrologic conditions and guide model development. The Regional Arctic System Model and the Community Terrestrial Systems Model are coupled to simulate river ice and water temperature with a chain of process-based models. Historical reanalysis, verified against baseline conditions, and future climate scenarios are simulated, and a fish bioenergetics model is being used to assess vulnerabilities of co-identified river-run Arctic fish species. Rich scenarios with IK of past events, changes, community challenges and adaptation successes will provide unique context to best communicate future model projections and impacts on the social, built and natural Arctic environment. Combining IK, climate and hydrologic modeling techniques with parallel advances in river ice, stream temperature, and fish models, the project collectively identifies convergent opportunities to monitor, map, model, assess, and communicate climate sensitivities of Arctic and boreal hydrology, rivers, and fish with respect to Indigenous culture, livelihood, transportation, and subsistence.

Logistics Summary

This collaboration between Musselman (1928189, CU) and Newman (1928078, UCAR) will conduct fieldwork measuring specific conductance (SC) and temperature in major rivers throughout Alaska and upstream western Canada. New sensors will be installed on main-stem rivers to permit continuous measurements of SC and water temperature. Plans to start in 2020 were delayed due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. Starting in 2021 a field team of 6 will travel twice per year, to deploy 20 sensors in Indigenous communities in Alaska and Yukon Territory, and deploy and maintain another 20 sensors at USGS gage and research stations. Independent measurements of SC will be made during site visits to calibrate the sensors. The sensors will be deployed during the ice- free season and retracted before ice-up for each year of the five-year study. Through a subcontract with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC), one field team member will be responsible each year to deploy during ice-free season and retract before ice upwater temperature and specific conductivity sensors, to ensure data collection for long-term groundwater and surface-water monitoring, at 20 selected sites across the Yukon River Basin over the five-year project period. The researcher will also oversee and facilitate Indigenous Observation Network (ION) environmental technicians’ efforts to guarantee maintenance of the sensors during open water seasons. A second subcontract will be provided to the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University (NAU) to facilitate information exchange between Indigenous community members, the YRITWC, and investigators to enhance project operations and performance outcomes and train investigators on cultural sensitivity of working with Tribes and First Nations. NAU will be responsible for forming a Native Advisory Council in coordination with YRITWC, organizing and facilitating the Arctic Rivers Summit, and facilitating community engagement calls.

Season Field Site
2021 Alaska - Beaver Creek
2021 Alaska - Eagle
2021 Alaska - Fairbanks
2021 Alaska - Fort Yukon
2021 Alaska - Galena
2021 Alaska - Hess Creek
2021 Alaska - Koyukuk
2021 Alaska - Pilot Station
2021 Alaska - Saint Marys
2021 Alaska - Tanana
2021 Alaska - Tok
2021 Alaska - Venetie
2021 Canada - Carmacks
2021 Canada - Dawson
2021 Canada - Mayo
2021 Canada - Teslin
2021 Canada - Whitehorse
2022 Alaska - Beaver Creek
2022 Alaska - Eagle
2022 Alaska - Fairbanks
2022 Alaska - Fort Yukon
2022 Alaska - Galena
2022 Alaska - Hess Creek
2022 Alaska - Koyukuk
2022 Alaska - Pilot Station
2022 Alaska - Saint Marys
2022 Alaska - Tanana
2022 Alaska - Tok
2022 Alaska - Venetie
2022 Canada - Carmacks
2022 Canada - Dawson
2022 Canada - Mayo
2022 Canada - Teslin
2022 Canada - Whitehorse
2023 Alaska - Beaver Creek
2023 Alaska - Eagle
2023 Alaska - Fairbanks
2023 Alaska - Fort Yukon
2023 Alaska - Galena
2023 Alaska - Hess Creek
2023 Alaska - Koyukuk
2023 Alaska - Pilot Station
2023 Alaska - Saint Marys
2023 Alaska - Tanana
2023 Alaska - Tok
2023 Alaska - Venetie
2023 Canada - Carmacks
2023 Canada - Dawson
2023 Canada - Mayo
2023 Canada - Teslin
2023 Canada - Whitehorse
2024 Alaska - Beaver Creek
2024 Alaska - Eagle
2024 Alaska - Fairbanks
2024 Alaska - Fort Yukon
2024 Alaska - Galena
2024 Alaska - Hess Creek
2024 Alaska - Koyukuk
2024 Alaska - Pilot Station
2024 Alaska - Saint Marys
2024 Alaska - Tanana
2024 Alaska - Tok
2024 Alaska - Venetie
2024 Canada - Carmacks
2024 Canada - Dawson
2024 Canada - Mayo
2024 Canada - Teslin
2024 Canada - Whitehorse


Arctic rivers, Indigenous communities, Monitoring, Alaska, Yukon, Climate modeling, Groundwater, Hydrology, Fish, River ice

Project Location


April 2020 Lightning Talk Video for NNA Award 1928189

A Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) project update video produced for the April 2020 virtual NNA Investigators meeting. The video is narrated by Keith Musselman (University of Colorado).

Navigating the New Arctic

April 2020 Project Update Report for NNA Award 1928189

A brief Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) project update report produced for the April 2020 virtual NNA Investigators meeting.

Navigating the New Arctic


PI Research Webpages




Beaver Creek, AK: Eagle, AK; Fairbanks, AK; Fort Yukon, AK; Galena, AK; Hess Creek, AK; Koyukuk, AK; Pilot Station, AK; Saint Marys, AK; Tanana, AK; Tok, AK; Venetie, AK; Carmacks, Canada; Dawson, Canada; Mayo, Canada; Teslin, Canada; Whitehorse, Canada


Principal Investigator

Dr. Keith Musselman
University of Colorado Boulder

Principal Investigator

Andrew Newman
National Center for Atmospheric Research

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Joshua Koch
U.S. Geological Survey

Co-Principal Investigator

Nicole Herman-Mercer
U.S. Geological Survey

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Michael N. Gooseff
University of Colorado Boulder

Co-Principal Investigator

Joseph Hamman
National Center for Atmospheric Research