Marine Ecosystems Community of Practice

Increasing understanding of the structure and function of Arctic marine ecosystems and their role in the climate system and advancing predictive capabilities.

Scope of Activities

The Marine Ecosystems Community of Practice was created under the Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021 to increase understanding of the structure and function of Arctic marine ecosystems and their role in the climate system and advancing predictive capabilities. It continues to meet and contribute to the goals and objectives of the Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026.

Team Leaders

Danielle Dickson
North Pacific Research Board (Website)

Jackie Grebmeier
CBL/UMCES (Website)

Lyle Britt

Deliverables from the Arctic Research Plan

1.1 Support the health of Arctic residents through research on public health needs, disparities, and delivery.

  • 1.1.5 Along with collaborating partners, investigate human illness associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs), and develop and distribute preventive messaging based on what is learned.

1.2 Address emerging threats to food safety and access, as well as food and nutrition security in the Arctic, through research that addresses how climate and environmental change is affecting the abundance, accessibility, and use of traditional foods and traditional ways of life.

  • 1.2.2 Provide funding opportunities and conduct studies on the impact of harmful algal blooms (HABs) on availability and safety of traditional and commercial foods.
  • 1.2.4 Conduct investigations and report on marine mammal unusual mortality events in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas to evaluate the severity, causes, ecological implications, and potential health risks to traditional users.
  • 1.2.5 Conduct investigations and report on trends in abundance, distribution, and condition of ice-dependent marine mammals in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas to identify and forecast changes that may impact food security and the long-term sustainability of traditional food supplies.
  • 1.2.6 Assess and model changes in abundance, distribution, and harvest of select marine mammals and fishes that are food sources in rural Alaska.

1.3 Provide research and technical support for water and sanitation infrastructure.

  • 1.3.3 Support research on the feasibility of PFAS treatment for surface water and groundwater in the Arctic. This will help inform a strategy on PFAS remediation of contaminated sites.

2.1 Advance understanding of Arctic amplification and the associated connections with lower latitudes.

  • 2.1.1 Provide funding opportunities for investigator-driven modeling and observational studies that focus on the following aspects of Arctic Amplification: (1) ice-albedo feedback; (2) impacts of atmospheric and oceanic circulation on Arctic Amplification; and (3) transport of heat, moisture, and pollutants between Arctic and lower latitudes. Share knowledge and synthesize results arising from these studies.

2.2 Observe, understand, predict, and project Arctic ecosystem change and its impacts on humans and the entire Earth system.

  • 2.2.2 Carry out and synthesize research and monitoring needed to improve understanding of important Arctic ecosystem processes and feedbacks. This will include responses to environmental changes, such as the associated impacts on wildlife and human communities and infrastructure. This work will include conference sessions and scientific publications.
  • 2.2.3 Develop and update meaningful products for delivering findings and information concerning key climate features, including the annual release of the peer-reviewed Arctic Report Card on the current state of the Arctic relative to the historical record.
  • 2.2.4 Continue coordinated interdisciplinary Arctic marine climate and ecosystem observations, and share data and promote synthesis of field observations.
  • 2.2.6 Continue support for research programs that document Arctic marine species distribution, abundance, biodiversity, health and condition, foraging ecology, demography, habitat use in the Arctic, and basic life history information as well as age and growth rates of key links in the food web.
  • 2.2.7 Produce and support publications and data products enhancing understanding of the linkages among marine species, oceanographic and sea ice conditions, and climate change. Specifically improve understanding of mechanisms that affect trends in trophic interactions, abundance, distribution, vital rates, and behavior.

2.3 Understand interactions between social, ecological, and physical Arctic systems, particularly in the context of coastal, climate, and cryospheric change.

  • 2.3.1 Observe, understand, and model processes to manage and mitigate potential and realized threats from coastal invasive species, biotoxicoses, and wildlife diseases on animals and human populations via existing research networks and initiatives, publications, participation in scientific meetings, and public engagement.
  • 2.3.5 Better understand the rate of terrestrial and subsea permafrost degradation and their roles in environmental and ecosystems processes and services (e.g., atmospheric and terrestrial carbon, Arctic greening, species invasion) by integrating empirical information into modeling efforts at various scales and delivering results via publications and presentations.
  • 2.3.6 Foster continued efforts to link multi-agency investments while expanding empirical datasets and synthesizing information that will inform the development of updated essential variable maps for Alaska, Greenland, and the circumpolar Arctic (e.g., permafrost ground ice content, topography, bathymetry, vegetation).
  • 2.3.7 Improve high-resolution models’ ability to capture coastal processes at the interface of ocean, land, and atmosphere by supporting targeted collaborations among model developers, users, and decision-makers. Products will include an interagency scientific peer-reviewed publication and conference sessions that address these models.

3.3 Improve multi-species and ecosystem approaches to predict climate change impacts on species distributions and on economically viable access to commercial and subsistence species in the next 50 years.

  • 3.3.1 Develop short-term comparative model predictions of the distribution and populations of fishery species (e.g. pollock, cod, salmon, halibut, crab) in response to evolving climatic conditions in the Northern Bering Sea and Southern Chukchi Sea.

4.1 Summarize currently available data and information requirements associated with hazard and risk mitigation, adaptation, and response efforts. Synthesize community-led activities and information to identify potential needs for future efforts.

  • 4.1.1 Conduct a study identifying where information used in decision-making and planning can be improved through access to new or additional data sources. This study should consider a wide range of activities associated with ongoing responses to common and emerging hazards, including risk reduction efforts and emergency preparedness and response.
  • 4.1.2 Share findings of deliverable 4.1.1 as a means (1) to spur additional research and science communication aimed at addressing unmet needs for planning, prevention, response, and recovery and (2) to inform time-sensitive decision-making and planning processes.

4.2 Update and improve the “Statewide Threat Assessment: Identification of Threats from Erosion, Flooding, and Thawing Permafrost in Remote Alaska Communities.”

  • 4.2.1 Undertake a study to identify the top 10 threats/hazards to communities and critical remote state and Federal government infrastructure in the state of Alaska that should be included in the Statewide Threat Assessment. This might include coastal and river erosion, flooding, thawing permafrost, and changes in the seasonal snowpack.
  • 4.2.2 Upon completion of 4.2.1, establish a data collection and collation plan to include mechanisms to collect threat/hazard data that may not be readily available.
  • 4.2.3 Collect and integrate disparate threat/hazard information and perform modeling and analysis to understand where natural and human-made threats and hazards pose a risk to Arctic communities.

DATA 1 Encourage and implement FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and CARE (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) data management principles in the Arctic.

  • DATA 1.1 Identify verified points of contact (e.g., agency champions, data practitioners, Arctic residents, Indigenous organizations) and their areas of expertise and interests for working with the data team on exploring and implementing FAIR and CARE in Arctic data management. As part of developing the points of contact, identify and track representation across many axes of diversity (demographics, disciplines/sectors, IARPC experience, career stage, and others) to ensure a diverse and representative group of contributors. The data team will check in with these groups regularly to ensure the points of contact are up to date.
  • DATA 1.3 Based on input from engagement activities, develop and update centralized documentation of thematic areas of interest, ongoing activities, and key documents and resources that can inform deliverables and future Biennial Implementation Plans.
  • DATA 1.4 Convene quarterly seminars, discussions, and training on FAIR and CARE data management in the Arctic. Ensure a diverse group of presenters and contributors are represented in these activities.

MOMP 3 Support coordination and engagement with Federal, international, and non-Federal partners who are conducting monitoring, observing, modeling, and prediction of the Arctic.

  • MOMP 3.2 Coordinate communication of information about field activities to Alaska communities where the research is being conducted through the research expedition vessel status tracker and spring and fall reports on research season activities.

PILR 1 Fulfill Federal requirement to consult with Federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.

  • PILR 1.1 Create a best practices document on meaningful consultation and engagement on Arctic research with Alaska Indigenous communities that is applicable to all Federal agencies.
  • PILR 1.2 Evaluate the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic 2018, and update as needed based on the evaluation.
  • PILR 1.3 Develop and deliver training for agencies to implement the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic.

PILR 2 Engage Arctic communities and individuals in research in a way that is meaningful to them.

  • PILR 2.1 Create a training toolkit for scientists that can be self-guided and used as needed. Topics may include cross-cultural communication, consultation, participatory research, Indigenous Knowledge, overview of Indigenous culture groups, formal agreements, and how to contract and consult with Indigenous companies and individuals.
  • PILR 2.2 Create a report of examples where IARPC member agencies have engaged Indigenous Knowledge holders in research.
  • PILR 2.3 Request that each Priority Area Collaboration Team host regular meetings that meaningfully engage with Indigenous leaders, groups, and/or communities. This includes developing a list of contacts to support requests for engagement or tracking engagement with Indigenous participation.
  • PILR 2.4 Analyze and develop a report on broader impacts of science/research teams on Indigenous health and resilience.
  • PILR 2.5 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify mechanisms for Federal agencies to effectively communicate science plans and findings among themselves and with communities.

PILR 3 Develop guidance for agencies to consistently apply participatory research and Indigenous leadership in research.

  • PILR 3.1 Co-define “Indigenous leadership in research” with Tribes, Indigenous organizations, and Federal agencies; and integrate into the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic and its training toolkit and best practices documents.
  • PILR 3.2 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify methods to streamline contracting/agreements and compensation processes to make co-stewardship and co-production in research more equitable and achievable.
  • PILR 3.3 Convene discussions to identify mechanisms to foster equitable pathways for Indigenous leadership in research.
  • PILR 3.4 Identify best practices for Federal agencies to support capacity for Tribes and Indigenous Knowledge holders in research. Distribute guidance on best practices to IARPC agencies.
  • PILR 3.5 Ensure consistent terminology for Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Local Knowledge for IARPC. Suggest primary language for IARPC be Indigenous Knowledge.


Under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, the Marine Ecosystems Community of Practice:

  • Conducted federal agency distribution and abundance surveys of Arctic marine species, including ice seals, polar bears, belugas, and bowhead, gray, fin, humpback, killer, minke, and right whales.
  • Supported the Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) and EcoFoci programs in annual field collection and data set distribution.
  • Supported continued assessments of the winter distributions of key Arctic species, especially marine mammals.
  • Supported studies investigating the feeding ecology of Arctic species and the transfer of energy through the Arctic food web.
  • Supported and shared information from programs that focused on life history information on key links in the food web.
  • Shared information about the value of recent interdisciplinary programs.
  • Supported DBO sampling and shared data, including via participation in the Pacific Arctic Group and the 5th DBO data meeting.
  • Built connections between DBO and community-based observer programs.
  • Shared research on feedbacks and interactions among biological, chemical, and physical variables.
  • Supported work on the Regional Action Plan for Southeastern Bering Sea Climate Science.
  • Facilitated conversations among marine observational scientists and modelers to discuss opportunities for better integration and potential use of observations to improve and validate models.
  • Facilitated discussions on temporal changes in anthropogenic and environmental sound in the Alaska marine Arctic.

For a full summary of the Marine Ecosystems Community of Practice’s accomplishments under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, see the 2021 Performance Element Summary Statements.