AAOKH Manuals

The Alaska Arctic Observatory and Knowledge Hub (AAOKH)

The materials comprise:

  • Survey protocols on sea ice and snow and on coastal water measurements

  • Workshop report to guide development of community observing

  • Scientific publications

  • Links to online database of community observations



The program has developed field guides for sea ice and snow observing and for deploying instruments for coastal water measurements. The field guides are short and useful and can serve as inspiration for others.

Sea ice and snow observing protocol: The observing protocols for snow and sea ice were originally developed as part of the Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network (SIZONet) that allowed flexibility in the reporting of daily snow and sea ice conditions. Particular emphasis was made on freeze-up and break-up seasons that coincided with subsistence hunting activities for bowhead whales in Utqiaġvik. The observers in the AAOKH project were also provided with digital cameras with geo-tagging capability, but transferring large image files with the attached GPS metadata has been problematic with the internet limitations in remote Alaska. Currently protocols to share image files include sharing lower resolution images by email on a daily or weekly frequency, and AAOKH research staff manually downloading the full resolution images from the camera during visits to coastal community every 4-6 months.


Coastal water measurements protocol: The coastal water measurements are made by community observers using hand-held CTD devices that sample at a relatively high frequency (12 Hz). CTD devices measure temperature and salinity (from conductivity measurements) at various depths from the surface. The RBR instruments were specifically chosen for use after consultation with researchers on a separate CBM project in Alaska that had previously determined faulty data collection with other CTD instruments. The RBR instruments used in this project were also chosen because they offered a supporting app for mobile devices (smart phone or tablet) that allowed simple, wireless connection to upload and share the data with researchers in near-real time (i.e. when the mobile device was later connected to a wireless internet connection). Ease of use of software and hardware was an important concern for use by community observers. However, a short field-training session and step-by-step instructions were also provided to observers before leaving the instruments with the community. The project has also benefited from the support of working with the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management to help with some of the technical issues of storing image files and uploading coastal water data between visits by the AAOKH research team.



AAOKH Workshop Report. A workshop was held in the University of Alaska Fairbanks to determine community-identified environmental concerns that could become priority observing efforts for the AAOKH project. Workshop participants included indigenous sea ice experts, subsistence hunters, and researchers with current CBM projects. The workshop was facilitated by an outside facilitator with established relationships with many coastal Alaska indigenous communities which helped to establish trust among workshop participants that the project is intended to address community concerns and provide data that would be of value to communities. Some key outcomes included identification of changes in the cryosphere (sea ice and permafrost), and impacts to the seasonal cycle of subsistence hunting activities. The workshop summary report and appendix are available below and in the resources section of the AAOKH website.


Deemer, G. J., Bhatt, U. S., Eicken, H., Posey, P. G., Hutchings, J. K., Nelson, J., Heim, R., Allard, R.A., Wiggins, H, Creek, K. 2017. Broadening the sea-ice forecaster toolbox with community observations: A case study from the northern Bering Sea. Arctic Science, https://doi.org/10.1139/AS-2016-0054


Eerkes-Medrano, L., Atkinson, D. E., Eicken, H., Nayokpuk, B., Sookiayak, H., Ungott, E., & Weyapuk Jr, W. 2017. Slush-Ice Berm Formation on the West Coast of Alaska. ARCTIC, 70(2), 190-202.

Eicken, H., Kaufman, M., Krupnik, I., Pulsifer, P., Apangalook, L., Apangalook, P., Weyapuk JR, W. and Leavitt, J. 2014. A framework and database for community sea ice observations in a changing Arctic: An Alaskan prototype for multiple users. Polar Geography, 37(1), pp.5-27.


Database on sea ice, wildlife, and weather conditions. These data can be obtained from the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA) Seasonal Ice Zone Observing Network (SIZONet)/ AAOKH database.

The local observations database was developed to record, archive, and share indigenous sea ice knowledge and expertise. Additional information about wildlife observed, weather and coastal water conditions, and hunting activity is also reported from daily narrative observations by sea ice experts and indigenous subsistence hunters in Arctic coastal Alaska. The database includes observations from 2006 to 2017 with additional observations ongoing. Eleven coastal communities contribute to the database, but some communities do not provide regular observations. There are two levels of access to the data: guest, and registered users. The guest level of access contains summarized information, which categorizes ice, weather and wildlife observations but does not contain the full text observations, which may contain sensitive information. The database can be searched by hunter, community, data and keyword. This information in the database is generously shared with the public by the observers and the communities within which the observers reside. We ask that anyone interested in browsing or using the information review and agree to adhere to the ethical and appropriate use guidelines, and to cite the data if it is used in publications.

Coastal water conditions data. These data can be downloaded in the form of graphic plots or comma delimited files after the data have undergone quality assurance.

A pilot project in the community of Utqiaġvik (Barrow) was started in 2017 to collect data on coastal chlorophyll a concentration (the chlorophyll used in photosynthesis), water temperature, salinity, and conductivity.  The data are initially stored on the measurement instrument deployed by the AAOKH observer before being transmitted wirelessly to a tablet and then uploaded to a shared folder that observers and research partners have access to. The AAOKH research team downloads the raw data from the shared Dropbox folder, filters the data through a QA/QC process and generates the plots and quality-controlled datasets. The data are shared on the AAOKH website as soon as possible, typically within a week of receiving notification that new data have been collected. It is anticipated that other communities within AAOKH may soon also take similar measurements and share the data.


Terms of Reference for the AAOKH Science Steering Group: The AAOKH Science Steering Group was established to provide continued guidance to the science lead on the direction and developing priorities for continued observing effort, and outreach of results. The Science Steering Group is made up of several researchers, and a representative from each of the North Slope coastal communities as well as other coastal Alaska communities. The terms of reference provides an example of expectations and for participating in the Science Steering Group to help potential members decide whether they have the time and interest to participate.


Pilot mapping application of AAOKH data, satellite imagery and related datasets: This mapping application was developed for the 2017 spring hunting season as part of a pilot project to link multiple data streams with AAOKH data using a user-friendly interface. The project contains data on ice thickness on whaling trails, coastal water measurements, AAOKH ice reports and geotagged photos, and satellite imagery of the region. It was developed in collaboration with the whaling crews in Utqiaġvik, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management.

Communication by social media. The AAOKH project maintains a Facebook page to communicate with coastal communities on data availability and project updates. Since Facebook is frequently used by coastal communities in northern Alaska, it was chosen as the most useful social media outlet to communicate informally.