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Meredith Kenney '12, left, and Emma Kearney '12 perch on whale bones while conducting research in Alaska.

Meredith Kenney '12, of Rensselaerville, NY, and Emma Kearney '12, of Rush, NY, participated in environmental research in Alaska this summer, with Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Jon Rosales. With funding assistance from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for the Environmental Education Initiative for Active Learning, Research and Advocacy, the trio went to two native villages experiencing environmental challenges caused by climate change.

The three interviewed elders, hunters, whaling captains and subsistence-gatherers about the changes they have witnessed. Rosales states that the recorded interviews will appear on a Web site next summer, pending the consent of the villages.

The research team visited Shaktoolik, a Malemiut village on the southern part of the Bering Strait that sits only a few feet above sea level, making it vulnerable to sea level rise, storm activity and storm surges. They also conducted research in Savoonga, a Yupi'k community on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, not far from Siberia, where melting sea ice has diminished whale, walrus and seal populations.

Kenney, an environmental studies major, plans to return to Shaktoolik next summer to continue gathering footage for a documentary film. Kearney, a mathematics and environmental studies major, will be analyzing driftwood core samples to determine their origin, as a senior project. Rosales, who has been conducting research on St. Lawrence Island for a number of years, plans to return for the next three summers, documenting what residents are experiencing and how they are adapting. In addition to the planned Web site, he also plans a book.

Posted: August 12, 2010


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