Classrooms for Climate: A Symposium on the Changing Chugach, Northern Ecosystems, and the Implications for Science and Society
May 4-7, 2011 on the campus of UAA
Classrooms for Climate is organized by the Chugach National Forest and UAA in partnership with the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, Alaska Geographic, and the Northern Forum. Alaska is ground zero for climate change, and the Chugach and neighboring landscapes, with world famous glaciers and watersheds, are an extended classroom for researchers, educators, and students around the world seeking to understand the potential physical, biological, cultural and socio-economic impacts. Each of the participating institutions recognizes its own unique role as a “classroom” for understanding and responding to climate change. All are committed to working across geographic and institutional boundaries to build knowledge and craft sustainable and effective solutions. This symposium is a first step in bringing together partners in inquiry, education, and management from across Southcentral, Alaska and beyond.
Forests of Alaska are embedded in a matrix of marine, wetland, glacial, and alpine habitats. These interconnected and diverse landscapes, as well as their vegetation and fauna, are experiencing rapid changes, including glacial retreat, drying of lakes, bark beetle outbreaks, invasive species, and shifts in marine ecosystem dynamics. Although ecological changes have been an enduring feature of these landscapes, the current rapid pace of changes and their potential connection to climate has generated a sense of urgency in understanding their causes, trajectories, interrelationships, and management or policy implications.
The purpose of the conference is to examine the current state of knowledge of regional climate, natural and managed ecosystems, socioeconomic conditions, and traditional cultural values of Alaska’s coastal forests and surrounding areas and to create an educational opportunity for students, agencies, and the interested public by bringing together relevant scientists and experts to share perspectives and insights. Elements of the conference include a public key-note address, presented paper sessions, poster sessions, and youth participation. The foci of this symposium are: 1) the biophysical systems, 2) their relevance to economic and cultural values, 3) their importance to advancing knowledge and utility for education, and 4) policy and adaptation.
Youth Involvement: The conference hosts are pleased to welcome and integrate the Northern Forum’s Youth Eco-Forum to the event. The Northern Forum is a nonprofit, international organization composed of sub-national or regional governments from 8 northern countries. 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the organization’s Youth Eco-Forum, an annual event aimed at promoting environmental education among teenagers around the circumpolar north. For the first time, the Youth Eco-Forum will come to Alaska, and 80-100 youth from all over the north will join the conference to explore research and questions concerning climate change and forested landscapes. Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) and Alaska Geographic, the nonprofit coordinating partner of the Chugach Children’s Forest, are working closely with the Northern Forum to develop this important session for youth at the symposium.
Blog coverage: Anchorage blogger and UAA professor emeritus Steve Aufrecht will roam the conference and report what interests him. He is an independent blogger and opinions expressed by Steve are his own and do not reflect official positions of UAA or the U.S. Forest Service. Find his work here.
Preview Conference Speakers: Get an advance taste of the conference through short interviews with plenary speakers and session leaders. Interviews added daily at the UAA podcast site.