National Park Service
The central mission of the National Park Service (NPS) in Alaska is no different than for the rest of the U.S. The NPS preserves, unimpaired, the natural and cultural resources under its stewardship for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of present and future generations. As an adjunct to this central mission, the NPS is also charged with cooperating with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resources conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the U.S. and the world.
The unique aspect of the NPS's mission in Alaska is provided by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Among other things, ANILCA ensures the continuation of traditional subsistence pursuits in most of the park areas and allows sport hunting in the national preserves. The vast size of the Alaska parks, combined with their ecological complexity, presents great management challenges. As recently demonstrated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, they are not free of threat and degradation from the impacts generated by the modern industrial world. They remain vulnerable, and the wise management of these lands depends on the knowledge and information that can only be supplied by solid and well-thought-out research and monitoring programs.
Recent organizational restructuring within the agency, coupled with the creation of the National Biological Service (now the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey), has changed the way research is accomplished within the NPS. Today, in the more decentralized NPS, park staffs have assumed significantly greater responsibilities for charting and carrying out its research activities. And in keeping with current Department of the Interior policy, the NPS has turned to the USGS for assistance with the larger and more complex biological research issues that face the parks. Moreover, in step with the intent of the Arctic Research and Policy Act, the NPS has actively sought the involvement and partnership of other Federal agencies, the State of Alaska, adjacent northern nations, Native groups, educational institutions and other interested parties in cooperative research endeavors.
|FY 96||FY 97|
The research objectives in the NPS are driven and guided by its major mission goals. These goals were reaffirmed by the NPS's National Leadership Council in the just-published 1997 National Park Service Strategic Plan. The specific goals that give general direction to its natural and cultural resource programs in the North are as follows:
Shared Beringian Heritage Program
The Shared Beringian Heritage Program of the NPS has expanded its outreach and partnership activities during the 1996-97 fiscal years. In addition to its cooperation with universities throughout the nation, the NPS has agreements in place with state and Native organizations, both at the regional and village level.
The Beringia Panel continues to convene several times a year to prioritize research proposals and to hear first-hand reports on current projects that are presented at the annual Beringia Days symposium in the fall in Anchorage. This panel has been successful in bringing the interests of the NPS and the Native corporations of western Alaska together in the areas of conservation and research in Beringia. Its members include management from the NPS and the Native corporations of western Alaska (Bering Straits, NANA and Arctic Slope Regional Corporations).
During this period, new Russian partners have been developed and a working relationship established with the regional government of Chukotka. The NPS's goal is to facilitate the exchange of scientists and data across the frontier and to encourage a strong link between villages on both sides of the Bering Strait. More and more Russian scientists and resource managers are attending Berin-gia Days, and increasing numbers of Beringia research projects have a Russian partner or Russian component to their study.
In the summer of 1997 an archeological reconnaissance was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington in the upper headwaters of the Killik River within Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR). This is in the general neighborhood of the now-famous Mesa Site being excavated by the Bureau of Land Management. The object of the work was to discover traces of the earliest inhabitants of Arctic Alaska. Little evidence of early use of this area was discovered, and researchers will address the implications of these findings in making future predictions of likely locations where evidence of Alaska's earliest people might be found.
The NPS funded the translation and publication of Nikolai N. Dikov's seminal work on the prehistory of Beringia, Asia at the Juncture with America in Antiquity. This book summarizes the results of Dikov's research between 1979 and 1986 in Chukotka and reports on the data gleaned from 170 archeological sites. It was the NPS's purpose to make this important volume available in English translation to the world community of scholars.
A joint project of the Shishmaref IRA (Indian Reorganization Act) Council and the NPS has provided detailed documentation of traditional place names and connections to the land in the coastal zone of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (BELA). A report on the study has been completed and is scheduled for publication in 1998 or 1999.
Kawerak Incorporated, in partnership with the NPS, is engaged in transcribing and cataloging 500 interview tapes with Eskimo people of the Seward Peninsula. These tapes represent an invaluable record of traditional life in the area.
The purpose of a University of Alaska project is to better define and understand the geomorphic and hydrological processes that govern the formation of vegetation and waterfowl habitat in the Cape Espenberg wetlands of BELA. Research results demonstrate that these dynamic and complex wetlands form one of the most important "biological engines" in the region.
The purpose of a cooperative venture with local elders, Native language teachers and the University of Alaska Native Language Center is to record local Inupiaq folk tales in their original dialects and settings and integrate them with a workbook on Inupiaq orthography. The products will be used to preserve and teach the Inupiaq language in the context of local oral history.
In cooperation with the King Island Native community the NPS is sponsoring a study of the Wolf Dance, one of the most important ceremonies of the King Island Eskimos. The research is being conducted by Deanna Kingston, a Native King Islander and anthropologist. Since the Wolf Dance was originally performed within the context of the Messenger Feast, where one community hosted another, the study will illuminate relationships with other Eskimo groups in the Bering Strait region.
The NPS, in cooperation with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, has updated and will soon publish Kuuvangmiut Subsistence: Traditional Eskimo Life in the Latter Twentieth Century. A revised version of this invaluable record of traditional subsistence lifestyle will be published for the first time, and the book will be made widely available to bilingual school programs in eleven villages in northwest Alaska and to scholars around the world.
Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks are using a variety of scientific approaches to decipher the key natural processes responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Kobuk Sand Dunes in Kobuk National Park. Because the dunes appear to also be a sensitive environmental sentinel for the region, a better understanding of the dunes will also shed important light on the larger landscape and climatic history of Beringia.
A multi-year collaborative research effort involving the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Massachusetts, the National Science Foundation and several research institutions affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences is attempting to determine the extent of Cenozoic glaciation in the Bering Strait and also characterize the changing character of the paleoceanography of the region during the same time span.
A project developed in partnership with indigenous people on both sides of the Bering Strait was designed to promote the continuation of traditional intercontinental links and the revitalization of cultural traditions associated with these cross-continental exchanges. This project specifically funded the attendance of regional dance groups and video documentation of their performances at the 1997 Northwest Alaska Native Trade Fair in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Ernest Burch is comparing and documenting the social, political and economic institutions and forces that characterized the traditional Inupiaq nations of the nineteenth century. As with his earlier-funded study on "international relations" among the Inupiaq nations, which has been completed, the product will be a published book.
Research by the University of Alaska Fairbanks on multiple exposures of an ancient ground surface buried under the 17,500-year-old Devil Mountain ash fall in BELA continued in 1996 and 1997. Studies include plant and insect identification, pollen analysis and the estimation of paleo-biomass and productivity. The results to date support the concept of a steppe-tundra environment during the late Pleistocene, but a newly found surface points to the existence of a shrub tundra more similar to today's environment at around 35,000 years ago.
In cooperation with the Eskimo Society of Chukotka, the Naukan Native Company, the Provideniya Municipal Museum and the North Slope Borough, the NPS is supporting the development of increased awareness of the values of the subsistence lifestyle and the potential benefits of the creation of an international park to the continuation of this traditional lifestyle. Local participation is critical to this project because it sponsors a variety of local efforts and studies ranging from marine mammal harvest counts to skin boat construction.
In close cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the communities of Savoonga and Gambell, Native Alaskan researcher Caleb Pungowiyi is directing a three-year study of seabirds and seabird subsistence harvests on St. Lawrence Island. The study involves strong participation by the local islanders in making direct bird colony observations and in sharing traditional knowledge on bird management strategies.
Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks continued to explore the nature and extent of twentieth-century cultural exchanges across the Bering Strait. Recent work centered on the roles of the Chukchi, King Islander and Diomede Eskimos in these contacts. The intensity of economic and social relations across the waters of the Bering Strait are much greater than originally expected, and new linguistic evidence has emerged that suggests that the Yupik spoken in the village of Naukanski on the Russian side had its origins in Alaska.
In its fifth and sixth years, the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Archeological Survey Project, funded by the Systemwide Archeological Inventory Program (SAIP), resulted in the completion of surveys of coastal areas within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (LACL) and within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST). The project continues to be interdisciplinary, placing emphasis on the construction of a regional model of prehistoric settlement patterns relative to Holocene sea-level changes, glacial action and the distribution of subsistence resources along the coast. The research is led by investigators from the Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and University of Alaska Fairbanks through the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), Biological Resources Division, Cooperative Research Unit. The FY 96 investigations at WRST, on the north shore of Yakutat Bay, demonstrated at least 800 years of prehistoric occupation where no archeological sites had previously been recorded. The sites provide a possible tangible link to Tlingit oral history, which mentions migrations into Yakutat Bay from the north. The FY 96 investigations at LACL demonstrated a high-density late-prehistoric Dena'ina occupation on the north shore of Chinitna Bay in an area where few definite archeological sites had been previously reported. In Tuxedni Bay the project recorded a 3500-year-old site, the first site of that time period recorded on the north shore of Cook Inlet, and it extends the known geographical range of the early maritime Ocean Bay culture. In FY 97 project work shifted to laboratory analysis and preparation of final reports. The final reports for the work in Kenai Fjords National Park (KEFJ) and Katmai National Park and Preserve (KATM) should be published in 1998. The final reports for the work in GLBA, LACL and WRST will be published in 1999.
Archeological overviews and assessments were completed for WRST and LACL, and four others were initiated in Glacier Bay National Park (GLBA), Sitka National Historical Park (SITK), Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR) and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO). The one at KLGO involved the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass Units and is being accomplished through a cooperative agreement with the University of Idaho. The outcome of these projects is the publication of synthesis documents that compile, review and evaluate all existing archeological data for a park and its immediate vicinity. The results include an up-to-date park resource information base and directions for future research and management of the resources.
Alagnak Wild River
Another first systematic archeological survey was conducted in 1997 at the headwaters of the Alagnak River and along the Nonvianuk River to its confluence with the Alagnak River. Twenty-four previously unrecorded archeological sites were identified. They document human occupation of the area from about 8000 years ago to historic times and include a large multi-component village with 69 features, two of which were large multi-room houses. A previously recorded site was also visited and mapped. This site has 38 house depressions, 25-35 cache depressions, Russian Orthodox church ruins and a cemetery.
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
The first-ever systematic archeological survey of this remote and poorly known region was conducted in 1997. Twenty-one new archeological sites (11 prehistoric and 10 historic) were found and documented. The sites included several sizable villages, one with more than 35 house pits. Lithic and faunal data from these sites will help in developing a picture of the culture and economy of this region, and the charcoal and tephra samples will help to develop a chronological framework for the cultural occupation and major volcanic events in the monument and preserve.
Cultural resource staff also began work on an ethnographic overview and assessment. The study will define relevant neighboring groups with ties to park lands, identify traditional use areas and determine future ethnographic research directions. Archival research will be combined with the collection of oral histories, and a comprehensive GIS cultural database will be developed to aid in evaluating information and designing future investigations.
Denali National Park and Preserve
In cooperation with the State of Alaska, Division of Subsistence, work was initiated on an ethnographic overview and assessment of the park and preserve as a whole. This is a two-year project that will involve not only the NPS and the State of Alaska but also several neighboring tribal groups and Alaska Native villages.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Archeological surveys in 1996 of two parcels of land to be affected by the Anaktuvuk Pass land exchange resulted in identifying and recording seven new sites that range in age from approximately 5000 years old to historic Nunamiut. This project also initiated a monitoring program for previously recorded sites around Agiak Lake.
A Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) study in the park seeks to determine culturally affiliated traditional burial practices of the Native people associated with park lands. This study will use published references, unpublished field data and interviews with community members to identify distinguishing surface features of gravesites. This information will be used by park management to protect sites from disturbance and to identify affiliated groups for future consultation.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
In association with the Hoonah Indian Association, the NPS undertook in 1997 an effort to use the recently compiled Tlingit place name map as a guide for locating and documenting former habitations and sacred sites in the park and preserve. The survey resulted in the discovery of eight archeological sites, including three fort sites. Two of the forts are in Glacier Bay proper and are likely the earliest sites thus far recognized in the bay. The forts are particularly significant because they allow a heretofore unrecognized glimpse of the tumultuous human environment in the mid- to late 1800s.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
In addition to revisiting and monitoring the condition of 50 previously recorded sites along the coast of the park in 1996, the park undertook data recovery excavations at the Mink Island archeological site within the Takli Island Archeological District. This work was undertaken in cooperation and consultation with the Council of Katmai Descendants, a group representing all Natives who have traditional ties with Katmai lands. Natural weathering, wave erosion and recent vandalism have contributed to the partial destruction of this site. The excavations included units in both the upper component of the site, which dates from 2500 to 500 years ago, and the lower component, which dates from 7000 to 4000 years ago. Work will be completed in 1998.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
In 1997 the first year of a three-year project to map, analyze and interpret the Kijik National Historic Landmark was initiated. This year involved taking low-altitude aerial photographs of the 14-square-mile project area and producing detailed topographic maps. Included within Kijik are the remains of 12 Dena'ina settlements and approximately 200 dwellings. The sites date at least from the late prehistoric period, approximately AD 1600, until the abandonment of historic Kijik Village in the early 1900s.
Western Arctic National Parklands
Responding to an impending severe decline in the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the NPS has joined with other Federal, state, regional and community partners in northwest Alaska to form a pro-active cooperative management initiative. Melding both Western management models and traditional ecological knowledge, this initiative concludes that the overall objectives of agency and community members and the conservation of healthy resource populations is best met by negotiating co-management regimes that integrate agency and local perspectives into a legitimate self-regulating system.
Archeological surveys were performed in Kobuk Valley National Park (KOVA) and Noatak National Preserve (NOAT) in 1996, and an additional survey was conducted in KOVA in 1997. The work in KOVA, done in collaboration with Brown University, identified 14 new sites that ranged from paleoarctic to the historic 1898 gold rush in age and resulted in three major prehistoric village sites being mapped. The work at NOAT resulted in architectural maps of stone qarigis at three late-prehistoric village sites (Feniak, Desperation and Burial Lakes) and initiated an ethnographic cultural landscape study at Desperation Lake. This study represents the first attempt at assessing the scope and problems associated with looking at archeological sites in the Arctic as part of a larger ethnographic landscape.
In 1996 at Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR), in a collaborative effort with the Smithsonian Institution, the NPS began the process of re-locating the more-than-500 archeological sites located by J. Louis Giddings and Douglas D. Anderson, both of Brown University, in the 1960s. Rebar monuments were established at each site, and global positioning system (GPS) fixes were obtained for each. In 1997 new aerial photography of the CAKR beaches was acquired to build detailed photogrammetric maps to be used to monitor beach erosion, to locate archeological sites and other resources, and to inform future archeologists of areas not examined by Giddings and Anderson.
Also at CAKR, archeological excavations were conducted in 1997 at the erosion-threatened sites of Agiagruat and Aitiligauraq. The work at the former was done in association with Washington State University, and a preliminary assessment of the artifacts collected indicates a late-Western Thule occupation dating to the 14th or 15th centuries AD. The latter, which was undertaken as an archeological field school jointly with Brown University, involved two turn-of-the-century Inupiaq semi-subterranean houses. This time period was one of transition and trauma for the Inupiat, and the analysis of the material will focus on the juxtaposition of items of traditional and Euro-American manufacture.
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
In cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Subsistence Division, the NPS conducted an ethnographic study of the Han Gwitch'in people. The purpose of the study was to produce an illustrated manuscript that would celebrate and document Han culture and history. The Han community of Eagle Village, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation in Yukon Territory, and Parks Canada were consultants on this study. Study topics included an overview of source materials; Han band territories and settlement patterns; traditional subsistence practices; social organization; expressive culture; changes in Han culture brought by contact with the fur trade, the gold rush and missionaries; and the Han people today.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and
In 1996 an archeological survey of the his- toric mining townsite of Chisana was completed. Although historic accounts mention 400-500 log cabins at Chisana in its heyday, the survey documented only 125 structures. Stream erosion and the construction of an airstrip and other facilities on adjacent private land account for the decimation of much of the original townsite.
In 1997 the first extensive archeological survey specifically targeted at identifying prehistoric sites was carried out in the Wiki Peak area near the Canadian border. An unexpectedly high density of prehistoric sites (65) was encountered and recorded. The discovery of a large concentration of sites, their relative chronology (from 2700 years ago to the protohistoric) before and after a significant volcanic eruption, the lithic technology represented, and its association with recently identified obsidian source material traded elsewhere in Alaska provided the park with invaluable resource data on the uncertain prehistory of the area.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Scientific research in Denali National Park and Preserve is critical to understanding and documenting resource conditions, providing information for park management decisions, and resolving threats to natural conditions. The park provides a unique opportunity for comparative studies that look at environmental response in pristine areas versus intensively manipulated areas. Denali is a vast wilderness over six million acres in size; documentation of the presence and condition of resources is a massive task. To accomplish this task the NPS conducts and supports a substantial interdisciplinary natural resource inventory, monitoring and research program. This program is implemented through efforts by park scientific staff, cooperating state and Federal agencies, and various academic institutions. During any given year, there are nearly 100 individual studies or projects underway.
Wildlife research has been important in Denali since 1926, when the first thorough inventory of wildlife in the park was started. Examples of 1996 and 1997 projects include the ecology of moose (USFS), the nesting ecology of migratory golden eagles (NPS), the ecology of grizzly bears (USGS-BRD) and investigations into predator-prey (caribou-wolf) relationships (USGS-BRD). Information to deal with wolf management, one of the most controversial resource issues in the park, continued to be developed through an extensive monitoring program using radiotelemetry. Other studies continued in 1997 include documenting wildlife behavioral response to vehicular use along the park road. For example, the effects of such vehicular use on Dall sheep migratory routes were examined and identified.
Denali's Long-Term Ecological Monitoring (LTEM) program continues to be developed jointly by park staff and USGS-BRD. Studies from this program are contributing to a fundamental understanding of park resources. Watershed-based studies for this program are wide-ranging in scope and have focused on such resources as soils, water chemistry, small mammals, birds and vegetation. Other LTEM studies parkwide were aimed at monitoring weather and determining the regional effects of climate on glaciers.
Recent studies have reflected a shift in interest to learning more about the park's abiotic resources. Examples of such projects include investigating the characteristics of the Cantwell formation volcanics unit. Paleontology studies were continued by the USGS. A study of the phenomena of surging glaciers continued on the Muldrow Glacier. Studies dealing with roadside impacts (trail development) and road dust were also continued. Closely related studies on the environmental fate and impact of dust palliatives were conducted. Air quality sampling efforts continued and were expanded in 1997 to include ultraviolet B monitoring. Investigations related to other park issues and threats included such things as assessing channel response to stream restoration, monitoring gravel extraction from alluvial floodplains, and documenting the freeze-thaw transition on a regional scale in boreal forests using satellite data (NASA).
Although the park is a vast and often forbidding area in which to conduct research and monitoring, this vastness has been made far more manageable by park staff through the application of global positioning systems and geographic information systems. ArcInfo and ArcView software are used by the park staff involved in research efforts; this program is supported by a full-time GIS specialist. Additionally, efforts are being directed at automating all resource data and information, as well as developing and cataloging traditional information such as specimens, maps and written records.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Genetic analyses and color-banding programs are being used in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS-Biological Resources Division to assess the degree of population differentiation and movements among geographically separate groups of harlequin ducks. The primary area of study encompasses areas affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the northeast coast of the Alaska Peninsula (Katmai National Park) and the Kodiak Island Archipelago (Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge) along the Shelikof Straits and Prince William Sound. Harlequin ducks were captured in molting drives, genetic samples were collected, and legbands were applied with site-specific colors and individual alphanumeric codes before release.
An Alaskan brown bear study was conducted along the Kulik River corridor cooperatively with the USGS-BRD for purposes of detecting patterns of activity, distribution, behavior and human interaction. The intent of the study is to determine the level of bear and human activity, bear and human spatial and temporal use, and bear-human interactions along the Kulik River during periods of high and low seasonal use by commercial operators and guide services. The Kulik River is a representative site similar to other drainages within the park that are experiencing exponential growth in terms of visitation and bear-human contact.
Concerns have been raised about the health of a prized rainbow trout population in the Alagnak River and its upstream tributaries in Katmai National Park. In cooperation with the USGS-BRD and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, questions regarding the rainbow trout population structure of the Alagnak drainage are being addressed. It is unknown whether the rainbow trout in various rivers, lakes and tributaries of the watershed are represented by a single, well-mixed population with readily mixed spawning aggregations or whether there are discrete populations having independent spawning groups. While it is generally believed that seasonal migrations occur, little is known about the detailed patterns of movement or population intermixing. Furthermore, little is known about the locations and relative importance of juvenile rearing areas. Because of limited knowledge of these basic life history characteristics, it is difficult to assess the relative impacts of the increasingly popular sport fisheries. Therefore, beginning in 1997 a five-year study was initiated to increase basic understanding of the population dynamics of Alagnak watershed trout and to improve technical capabilities for assessing the overall health of Alaska rainbow trout populations in general.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
The Johnson River watershed, located in the southeast part of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, with glacial headwaters on the Mt. Iliamna volcano and draining east to Cook Inlet, has been the focus of a water resource and fisheries inventory from 1995 to 1997. A continuously recording stream gaging station was established on the river in 1995 in a cooperative effort between the NPS and the USGS. Water quality sampling, aquatic invertebrate sampling, fish trapping and stream sediment analyses were conducted on the mainstem and tributaries of the Johnson River and in Bear Creek, a neighboring small clear-water stream. In addition to baseline information gathered for the watershed in light of future development in the area, data collected on the Johnson River will prove useful to the National Water Quality Assessment for Cook Inlet, part of a national water quality program administered by the USGS.
Kenai Fjords National Park
A multi-agency coastal lake and lagoon inventory and monitoring program began in 1996. Cloudy Cape Lagoon, adjacent to the western shore of Taroka Arm, was the first lake to be inventoried. Survey data collected included outflow stream and beach profiles, lake bathymetric profiles, and temperature and conductivity profiles through a range of depths and lake level recordings. Water, plankton, fish and invertebrate samples were collected. In 1996, 14 sockeye salmon spawners were counted in the shallow gravel bottom area of the lagoon; however, all juvenile salmonids captured were coho salmon. In 1997, many more sockeye spawners were observed in the lagoon, even though no surface flow was observed in the poorly defined stream channel linking the lagoon to Taroka Arm.
A second lake or lagoon will be surveyed in 1998, and Cloudy Cape Lagoon will be resampled. A recording rain gauge and lake level recorder will be deployed at Cloudy Cape Lagoon in an effort to determine how quickly the lake level responds to rainfall events. These data will help resource managers determine when salmon are entering the system and will be useful in developing models that predict the fate of salmon runs in this system.
The coastal bald eagle population has been monitored in the park since 1986. Results from the 1996 season and preliminary results from the 1997 monitoring season suggest a greater number of nest failures than expected. Final results are expected in early 1998.
In 1997, park resource managers, biologists from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (Seattle, Washington), the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (Institute of Marine Science), and a visiting Russian scientist collaborated for the first-ever live capture of harbor seals using floating glacier ice as a primary haulout. The team used a modified floating gill net to capture the seals. Once captured, the animals' condition was determined and vital statistics (sex, weight, etc.) recorded. Blood and tissue samples were collected from each animal, and a small radio transmitter was attached to the rear flipper. Collected data will help to provide an understanding of individual harbor seal condition and movements within the fjords and may be used to assess causes of a continued population decline.
Park staff assisted killer whale researchers from the University of British Columbia and the North Gulf Oceanic Society to identify individual killer whales and monitor resident and transient pod movements in waters adjacent to the park. These data may enable a better understanding of the effects of transient killer whale predation on the park's declining harbor seal populations. In 1998, park staff and scientists from the Alaska SeaLife Center and the North Gulf Oceanic Society will deploy a remote hydrophone close to the mouth of Resurrection Bay. Hydrophone data will determine cycles of occurrence of transient killer whales along portions of the park coastline.
Temperature dataloggers were deployed at three coastal locations and two Exit Glacier locations in 1997. A knowledge of seasonal temperature regimes will enable a better understanding of seasonal cycles of floral and faunal occurrence, distribution, condition and productivity. This program will be expanded in 1998.
Park staff also conducted the first cycle of campsite impact monitoring since an initial 1993 campsite impact inventory. To date, approximately 50 campsites have been identified and monitored. Preliminary results suggest that approximately 90% of the sites showed little increased impact due to human disturbance. However, some sites located in more sensitive environments exhibited a marked increase in size. Other less-utilized sites exhibited some degree of recovery. The final results of the 1997 monitoring are anticipated in early 1998.
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
The NPS is developing an assessment protocol for reindeer ranges in western Alaska. The preserve, located on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska, is the only NPS unit in the system with mandated reindeer grazing. Existing herd management practices that have evolved over the last century give more attention to acres of range than to quality of range. The NPS is hoping to change that focus. Donald Spalinger of the University of Alaska Anchorage, who is developing a monitoring protocol, completed a second field season in 1997, working with Keith Owen of Texas A&M University. The team is collecting specific information on range condition and diversity. The goal of this work is to produce a detailed guide to range assessment for reindeer ranges in western Alaska. After more field work and consultation in 1998, Dr. Spalinger and the NPS will produce a monitoring handbook for distribution to reindeer herders, land managers and other interested parties. The goal is to have the handbook available to herders by the spring of 1999.
In 1977 Douglas and Diane Schamel returned to Cape Espenberg to study the nesting habits of red-necked phalaropes and other shorebirds. This fourth year of field work complements studies done in the late 1970s by the couple and provides excellent data on trends over an extended period. The Schamels have been able to re-locate their original study plots and use exactly the same locations and techniques. Collateral to their shorebird study the team is monitoring numbers, hatching success and predation on common eiders. Preliminary data indicate that numbers and breeding success are down for all species. Predation of eggs by jaegers, foxes and reindeer has reduced hatching success. The Schamels will return to the field in 1998 for a final season with hopes of gathering more specific data on common eiders.
Noatak National Preserve and Kobuk Valley National
The fifth year of moose population monitoring in Noatak National Preserve was completed with the cooperation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The purposes of the study are to delineate census areas and document survival of radio-collared moose. Currently a radio-collared sample of 70 moose is monitored four times during the year to document survival and movements. During 1997 the project expanded its objectives to document calf production and survival using intensive monitoring of radio-collared cows during the calving period in June.
Annual monitoring of Noatak National Preserve sheep entered its eleventh year in 1997. Aerial minimum count surveys documented the third year of significant lamb production following a five-year absence of productivity. Adult numbers also increased in the Baird Mountains because of immigration of sheep from groups living east of the survey area.
The fourth year of a five-year program to monitor neotropical songbird populations within Noatak National Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park was completed in late August. Over 1000 birds of 30 species have been banded since the program began in 1994 as part of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program sponsored by the Institute for Bird Populations. Highlights of the program include a banding station on Native corporation land near Kotzebue where the public participates in banding activities.
Over 50 trapper-caught wolverine carcasses were collected as part of a cooperative project with the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge to document the harvest of wolverines on Federal lands within northwest Alaska. Carcasses will be necropsied to determine the sex and age of harvested wolverines, the reproductive characteristics of females, and the nutritional condition of each animal. In FY 98 the project will expand its objectives to determine the survival and productivity of wolverines using a radio-collared sample.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Using standard National Wetlands Inventory photointerpretation and cartographic conventions, wetlands identification, classification and mapping were completed on eleven USGS quadrangles covering the upper Kobuk River watershed.
A botanical reconnaissance was conducted in the Walker Lake National Natural Landmark (NNL) and parts of the adjacent Arrigetch Peaks NNL. A total of 350 species, including 214 vascular plants and 136 macrolichens, were inventoried. Thirty-one of the vascular plants represented additions to known park flora, and nine represented large range extensions. Thirty-seven of the lichen species were new to the park's flora, and 26 were new to the Brooks Range.
In FY 97 the NNL biological reconnaissance effort was expanded to provide baseline data on lichen flora and floristics for the entire park. More than half of the park's species are lichens and bryophytes, yet surprisingly little was known about their presence and distribution. Lichens were inventoried across two broad transects of the park, resulting in approximately 30 new records for the park and a clearer idea of the parkwide distribution of taxa. The project also provided training to botanists from other park units and agencies, published a guidebook to Alaskan genera of macrolichens, and produced a visitor center display. The park's lichen flora was incorporated into a database including records from an extensive literature search and current identifications. A sizable lichen collection of over 900 specimens was added to the park's holdings.
A project was initiated to determine the distribution and abundance of the rare plant Aster yukonensis in the park and preserve and to determine its vulnerability to human disturbance. The species is found in scattered populations in northern Alaska and in parts of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Canada. Relatively few data are available to document the range and distribution of this plant.
Baseline vegetation information was collected within the Anaktuvuk Pass all-terrain vehicle (ATV) access land exchange area of the park. Monitoring plots were established in different plant communities and associated soil types to evaluate how ATV use will affect those communities. These data will be used to determine changes in community structure and to establish thresholds of acceptable change.
Sheefish in the Kobuk and Selawik Rivers are the largest in Alaska and represent an important subsistence and sport fishing resource. A cooperative ADF&G/NPS project was conducted to describe the stock status of spawning sheefish in the upper Kobuk River and to measure the proportions of sheefish that return to spawn one and two years after a previous spawn. Spawning sheefish abundance, length and age composition were estimated in the upper Kobuk River. Subsistence and commercial harvests were estimated in Hotham Inlet, and sport harvest was estimated for the entire river.
The opening of the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) to the general public in 1995 caused concerns over increased fishing in lakes north of the Brooks Range. This motivated the State to initiate population studies of four lakes containing lake trout. As part of this effort a two-year cooperative ADF&G/NPS study began in 1997 on the lake trout of Itkillik Lake. The study objectives are to estimate lake trout abundance and length composition, and to estimate lake trout catch per unit effort using standardized gillnet sampling (index fishing).
A Dall sheep population survey was conducted in 1996 in park areas where the sheep are subject to sport or subsistence harvest. Approximately 2200 square miles were surveyed. The sheep population decreased by 30% to 80% since surveys were conducted in 1986 and 1982-1983.
Snowshoe hare track count transects were conducted through seven tundra vegetation types near the village of Wiseman. Long-term monitoring of the transects may reveal refugia where hare populations remain high, even during the low part of the population cycle.
Landbird species were monitored within the park and preserve as part of a statewide Boreal Partners in Flight effort. Three off-road point-count transects were monitored: tundra transects in Anaktuvuk Pass and in the upper Noatak River drainage, and a boreal forest transect in the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River. The routes have been surveyed annually since 1993, and five previous years of data contribute to understanding landbird species diversity, distribution and habitat use as well as improving landbird monitoring techniques.
The importance of riparian shrub habitats to avian species was evaluated in a tundra ecosystem. Species diversity, nest density and nest site characteristics were documented for neotropical migrant birds. The park serves as the northernmost breeding grounds for several species of neotropical migrant birds. The northernmost limits of their range may be the best areas for early detection of population changes, so careful documentation of these populations is important.
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
A military F-15 fighter jet crashed in the headwaters area of the Charley River in 1995. The aircraft's impact resulted in a fire that severely burned a localized area to mineral soil. An unknown quantity of unburned fuel contaminated the area, and although larger pieces of the aircraft were removed, the area is still littered with metal fragments. An ongoing soil, vegetation and water quality monitoring project will ensure that the site recovers to a natural, undisturbed state. The project also develops procedures and techniques necessary to address expected similar incidents as a result of substantial military aircraft operations over the preserve.
A three-year study of Dall sheep habitat will determine seasonal movement patterns of sheep within the preserve. The project will also improve the timing of sheep surveys, quantify the mingling of sheep from discontinuous areas of habitat, identify sensitive sheep use areas (such as lambing and rutting areas) and temporal use of those areas, help mitigate the impacts of increased low-level military flight operations, and develop a long-term monitoring plan. Fifteen sheep were radio-collared in April 1997. To date, data show individual movements of up to 40 miles.
A wolf radio-tracking project was initiated in 1993. The objective is to determine the demography of wolf packs using the preserve. Identified preserve wolf packs have received protection on State lands adjacent to the western boundary of the preserve, where the State is using non-lethal predator control in an effort to enhance the recovery of the Forty Mile Caribou Herd. Seventeen wolves in eight packs are being monitored in order to continue to protect them.
Peregrine falcon populations were monitored along the upper Yukon River and on the Charley River. Nesting territory occupancy, breeding success and productivity on the Yukon River have been documented annually since 1979 and on the Charlie River since 1993. Bands and satellite radio-tags have been used to determine migration routes, wintering areas, and dispersal, movement and mortality of adults. Pesticide levels have been measured periodically. Substantial recovery of American peregrine falcons has been documented in the preserve during this project.
Landbird species were monitored as part of a statewide Boreal Partners in Flight effort. Two off-road point count transects were initiated in 1997 and will be monitored annually henceforth. The data will contribute to understanding landbird species diversity, distribution and habitat use in the preserve and to improving landbird monitoring techniques.
Long-term monitoring of water quantity and flow rates on the Kandik, Nation and Yukon Rivers was initiated in 1992. Information for the Kandik and Nation Rivers was important because of potential development on private lands that would utilize water from the preserve. Yukon River data collection is part of a Canada-U.S. effort to collect long-term water quality information. Beginning in FY 98, spring, summer and fall data collection on the Kandik and Nation Rivers will be expanded to year-round data collection. The objective of this project is to continue the long-term monitoring plan.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
In 1997 the park began a multi-faceted study to monitor the extent and effect of spruce bark beetle infestation in an 800,000-acre study area in the Copper River Basin. Study objectives were to:
In the first year, park staff established sixty forest inventory sites, established potential long-term monitoring sites, and had aerial photography flown for ongoing photointerpretation and vegetation mapping.
The Mentasta Caribou Herd occupies the western and northern portion of the park and adjacent lands. These caribou are an important faunal component of the area and are highly valued for their intrinsic ecological, cultural and recreational roles. From a high of approximately 3100 animals in 1985, the herd began to decline, until in 1997 it was estimated to consist of only 614 individuals. The primary reason for the decline appeared to be poor calf survival and recruitment, as shown by summer and fall monitoring surveys and a preliminary study of radio-collared cow caribou. Factors such as habitat deterioration or hunting did not seem to be involved. In 1993 the park initiated a study to determine calf survival rates and causes of mortality. This research was a cooperative effort between the NPS and the USGS-BRD. Using aerial surveys and radiotelemetry, biologists determined the proportion of pregnant cows, calf survival and causes of calf mortality. Pregnancy rates remained high (approximately 80-90%), but calf survival was low (5-25%). Predation by wolves and brown bears accounted for the majority of calf mortality.
Before the park was established, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) were employed, and their use continues. Where the use level is high, trails have formed and impacts to the landscape, drainage and vegetation have developed. In an assessment of ATV impacts, researchers examined the relationships between ATV impacts on vegetation and soils and the amount of use, the vegetation type, the soils and permafrost. Impacts of ATVs vary significantly between both vegetation and soil types. Natural and geosynthetic materials were tested for their ability to mitigate impacts on ATV trails in mixed shrub-sedge tussock bogs underlain by permafrost. Six hardening treatments were tested on heavily and moderately impacted trails. Post-installation monitoring, which began in 1996 and will continue, shows that all treatments are able to withstand ATV traffic while allowing regrowth of vegetation.
A vascular floristic inventory of 13 million acres in the park was initiated in 1994 and completed during 1997. Site selection emphasized areas with unique lithology and geomorphology, areas with no previous botanical collections, and communities known to have sensitive and endemic taxa. Inventory results are in preparation.
The USGS and park staff conducted a geochemical investigation of mineral properties within the park and preserve. In most of the mineralized areas the extent of metal contamination and baseline geochemical signatures were unknown. The goals of the study were to quantify the modern-day effects of historic mining activity on stream sediment and surface waters at Nabesna, Bremner and Kennecott, determine a geochemical baseline at Gold Hill where small-scale placer mining is active, and develop a geochemical baseline in mineralized, unmined areas at Orange Hill and Bond Creek. Stream sediment, water and rock samples collected from these areas are being chemically analyzed for more than 50 elements, such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum and zinc. Parameters measured at water sample sites include pH, conductivity and flow. Differences in pH and conductivity are directly related to the different geologic settings of the areas. Carbonate rocks are common around Kennecott and Nabesna deposits, and calcite is present in bedrock and veins at Bremner and Gold Hill. Carbonates tend to counteract acid-generating reactions caused by the breakdown of sulfide minerals such as pyrite and neutralize the solutions. Most metals are not mobilized in water under these higher pH conditions. In contrast, at Orange Hill and Bond Creek there is a lack of carbonate rocks and an abundance of finely dispersed pyrite and its breakdown products. The acidic waters are able to mobilize and carry metals in solution, resulting in higher conductivities and metal contents in waters at Bond Creek and Orange Hill.