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UAS Project Featured in White House Policy Document on Ocean Justice

This prestigious recognition underscores the significance of community-engaged research in advancing environmental and social justice.

Juneau, Alaska

Date of Press Release: June 3, 2024

The University of Alaska Southeast is proud to announce that a UAS faculty led collaborative project with local and federal agencies was featured in a recent White House policy document on Ocean Justice. This prestigious recognition underscores the significance of community-engaged research in advancing environmental and social justice.

Spearheaded by UAS Professors Dr. Sanjay Pyare and Dr. Jason Fellman, along with Ryan Bellmore from the U.S. Forest Service, this initiative serves as a prime example of integrating scientific research with community and tribal engagement to address critical environmental challenges. The highlighted project, "Community Engagement in a Stream-network Assessment of Salmon Thermal-habitat in the Situk River Watershed of Yakutat, Alaska," involves a dynamic collaboration between UAS, the U.S. Geological Survey through the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center, with the coastal Alaska community of Yakutat.

“This acknowledgment from the White House highlights the exceptional work being done at UAS to marry scientific research with meaningful community engagement. It’s a testament to our commitment to education and research that not only respects but actively includes the voices and needs of local communities,” said UAS Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Carin Silkaitis. “As we open our new Environmental Science building, Áakʼw Tá Hít, these values remain at the forefront of our mission, providing a state-of-the-art home for projects like this that pave the way for a just and equitable environmental future.”

The project focuses on assessing the thermal habitat of salmon in the Situk River, a vital resource for the Yakutat community. By collecting and sharing stream temperature data, conducting technical training, and co-mentoring local high school students, this initiative not only advances scientific understanding but also empowers local communities and promotes sustainable environmental practices.

UAS Environmental Science Faculty Member, Dr. Sanjay Pyare commented, “The project is a step forward in disrupting the extractive culture of research for agencies and academic entities working in rural and tribal communities -- something I am guilty of myself working across Southeast Alaska for the last three decades. It's time for practitioners to end the one-and-done approach with projects in communities, and realize, as individuals, we should step up and find ways to give, not take, to help sustain the community wheel that helps turn local youth into future local leaders.”

The new Áakʼw Tá Hít building, which houses the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and UAS Environmental Science programs, will further enhance the capacity for such impactful projects, featuring modern laboratories and collaborative spaces designed for the next generation of environmental scientists.

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Press Release Contact

Kevin Myers
University of Alaska Southeast