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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Arctic Observation Network Social Indicators Project

Status Current
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 11/01/2009
End Date 06/01/2010
Funding Source Policy Research Internship Award
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 04/08/2010 04:02PM
Keywords tourism, northern alaska, AON-SIP


  Ginny Fay

Student Researchers
  Melissa Bradley


Since January I have been working with Ginny Fay on the Arctic Observation Network Social Indicators Project (AON-SIP). The goal of the project is to add to the development of the Arctic Observation Network, by making datasets available to the scientific community and identify and correct gaps in the existing observation system. Ultimately, this research will evaluate whether or not the arctic is moving to a new state, by examining how life is potentially changing for populations of the Arctic. This combines socio-economic structures, environmental change, and resource development, management, and policy.

Ginny and I have been looking at tourism in the northern boroughs of Alaska. I was responsible for obtaining relevant data for Nome, Barrow, and Kotzebue, including cruise ship visitation statistics, raw visitor counts, and employment data in sectors with explicit tourism-driven demand. These boroughs received relatively few visitors and little visitation information is available. Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow are the largest communities and transportation and commercial hubs. As a result, data for visitor counts was collected from visitor centers from National Park Service employees. For data on cruise ship passenger counts in Nome, cruise companies were contacted directly. Employment data came from Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWFD).

At this point in my research, the results indicate there is a lack of easily accessible, reliable data. While all the visitor's centers counted guests, there are no methods in place to ensure that double counting does not occur. However, if these visitor center counts are consistent, they may be reliable for observing rates of change over time even if their absolute magnitudes are not completely accurate. Another problem is that records only begin in the early 1990s. Cruise passenger counts are incomplete and difficult to obtain, perhaps due to the competitive nature of the industry. Companies were apprehensive to release their numbers. Finally, because of the few businesses in the areas studied and reporting confidentially rules, DLWFD statistics are limited until the early 1990s. While there is growth in tourism-related employment, linking this information to visitation data is challenging.

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