BioMap Alaska

Project Overview

Dates: July 2012—August 2013


Primary Scientists: 

Howard Ferren, Alaska SeaLife Center
Maribeth S. Murray, IARC, UAF
Philip Loring, ACCAP

The BioMap project tests a web-based citizen-science initiative to collect information on marine species of concern and local ecological knowledge of the marine ecosystems along the Alaska region of the Chukchi and Bering seas.  We engage community members in Kotzebue, Barrow, and Kaktovik to test and evaluate a reporting system for uploading observations and developing maps that are useful for management and education purposes.

We hope that from these efforts that we can improve collaborations among managers, scientists, and local stakeholders through a forum of continuous exchange of information. Non-scientists can offer important observations where planned scientific monitoring program is absent or marginal in location, duration, and seasonality. Residents of coastal communities have a vast knowledge of the marine ecosystem and marine species and their use of marine resources provides an invaluable opportunity to obtain observational data not otherwise available. 

During this prototype phase, we focus the project on 10-20 species of concern that are pictured with key characteristics in a field guide provided to citizens. We will structure the publicly accessible BIOMap Alaska website and reporting formats to allow citizens to report any specimen in addition to the species listed, but our database and experts networked to identify specimens will be focused on three groups of organisms 1) fish (both bony fish and cartilaginous fish including sharks, skates, and rays, 2) crustaceans, and 3) pinnipeds (ice-dependant species). Based on outcomes, we envision expanding BIOMap Alaska to include all species of concern and a broader geographic region of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.