Southeast Alaska Research and Development Action Initiatives

Cluster Co-Chairs: Dave D’Amore, USFS, and Shannon Atkinson, UAF/UAS

Impacts and Successes

  • Southeast Alaska region formally designated as a model Community of Excellence in Research.
  • Better lines of communication between research entities in the region, leading to collaborative research programs.  
  • Creation of a first of its kind weekly seminar series to highlight regional research and to bring scientists, students, resource managers and industry representatives together for collaborative discussions and brainstorming.
  • Hire of a new fisheries biologist to enhance research capacity of the region.
  • Survey of community research needs and capacity undertaken and top areas of need for research identified.
  • Collaborative research program developed between USFS, University of Alaska, and industry members around utilization of yellow cedar that is dying due to climate change.


Develop a Collaborative Research Network Focused on Key Themes in Southeast Alaska 

Champion: Dave D’Amore, Pacific Northwest Research Station, USFS 

The goal of this initiative is to improve regional communication and coordination regarding research and development opportunities and needs in Southeast Alaska. This initiative is highly integrated into collaborative efforts among Federal and State agencies, the University of Alaska, and centers at both UAS and UAF. The integration of these organizations have advanced research work in climate change, carbon cycle science, fisheries, and wood products. Some key collaborations are a hydrologic study jointly undertaken by PNW Research, the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and the BC Ministry of Forests and Natural Resource Operations. A post-doc will start work in April to model snow and streamflow across the entire region. The USGS Climate Science Center, the UAF Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning and the PNW Research Station have a collaborative agreement to model soil hydrologic conditions in the region. This project has a close link with Yellow-cedar decline related research and will provide information on soil conditions that influence productivity and health of vegetation communities. The PNW Research Station is hiring a new fisheries biologist to address the important restoration and management of salmonids in Southeast Alaska. This new position will enhance the research capacity of the region. The PNW Research Station is leading the regional carbon accounting for coastal forest region in collaboration with the USGS Landcarbon program and UAF. This study is providing the stock and flux of carbon in the region for reporting to the UN to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation around the world. The PNW Research Station, Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, the State of Alaska Division of Forestry and DCCED are collaborating on a project to explore the feasibility of utilizing dead yellow-cedar in Southeast Alaskan forests as a source of highly valuable wood. This initiative is a critical to support small mill operations in Southeast Alaska and maintain a valuable supply vector for these operations. 

Connect Research to Communities 

Champion: Jim Powell 

This initiative will strengthen awareness of research, connection to research and develop talent for future researchers within Southeast Alaska’s remote rural communities by creating a mechanism for communication between rural SE communities and research establishments. In 2013, a draft survey was developed and piloted to determine what types of research was being conducted in communities across SE. Informed by the pilot survey, in early 2014 the survey was revised and a strategy for conducting the survey was developed. The purpose of the survey was to determine what and where research is being collected, community capacity for conducting research, and ultimately to determine what research is needed in Southeast Alaska. Survey responses were collected in 2014 from 40 respondents with 18 of the 33 communities represented. A preliminary report was drafted and includes the perceived needs of Southeast communities for research.  For example, fifteen areas of research were identified as being conducted in the region, and the top three areas needed for research are renewable energy, fish, and the economy.  A final report will be finished in spring 2015.  

Link industry needs to local researchers in Southeast Alaska 

Champion: Kurt Fredriksson 

The goal of this initiative is to leverage existing networks and create new ones in order to raise awareness among community stakeholders of the diverse capabilities and availability of research in our region.  In 2014, this initiative focused on the small-scale timber industry in Southeast Alaska, investigating the potential for local mills to create value-added products from yellow-cedar trees killed by long-term changes in weather patterns. 

Market the Unique Geographic, Natural and Infrastructure Features of our Region 

Champion: Allison Bidlack, Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center 

The objective of this initiative is to strengthen relationships within the existing regional network of research facilities in Southeast Alaska, elevate network visibility and profiles, make improvements in local infrastructure, and adopt institutional practices that allow sharing of facilities and logistics support.  The Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center continued for a second year a weekly seminar series to highlight regional research and to bring scientists, students, resource managers and industry representatives together for collaborative discussions and brainstorming. In 2014 the initiative team embarked on a targeted marketing campaign with networking and research trips to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and Washington DC. 

Promote STEM Education in our Region 

Champions: JEDC STEM AK and Sitka Sound Science Center 

The goal of this initiative is to augment STEM literacy in the regional education system by expanding STEM out-of-school learning opportunities for K-12 and post-secondary students. The vision is for more local research scientists to play a role in delivering STEM education. This will be accomplished through a volunteer-driven STEM program that will take advantage of employment mandated community service hours for STEM research scientists and grant support for STEM education. Professional development and lesson plans will be developed to support this STEM program and will be introduced to other schools in Juneau and region-wide, both elementary and middle school. At the high school level, internship opportunities will be developed in cooperation with area research laboratories.  In 2014, the initiative has attempted to integrate STEM professionals into school programs and into classrooms through an Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum and after-school through a 21st Century grant with support of JEDC and the Juneau School District. STEM efforts also include activities through the middle-school After School Coalition in Juneau  In 2015, the initiative will look to align the initiative with the STEM programming already taking place through JEDC, such as robotics programs, after school programming, and summer programs. Also, the STEM outreach efforts of the Sitka Sound Science Center will be looked at as an excellent example of STEM outreach into the local schools which could be replicated in other communities.

Become State Committee on Research (SCoR) Area of Excellence 

Champion:  Shannon Atkinson, UAF/UAS 

The purpose of this initiative is to help develop the infrastructure to facilitate and coordinate research in Southeast Alaska. Specifically, the infrastructure for grant management within the Southeast region needs to be expanded. The vision is for there to be a recognizable entity that obtains formal recognition as the vehicle for achieving the aims of the SCoR plan in Southeast. In fall of 2014, the R&D champion for this initiative and JEDC staff met with the Co-Chair of SCoR and requested guidance on how to have Southeast Alaska officially designated as a area of excellence in research and development. The R&D co-chairs subsequently submitted a formal request to SCoR. The outcome is pending.