Last fall the Alaska Harbor Observation Network installed monitoring equipment in Kodiak’s harbors. The equipment will provide valuable data to the Pier 3 wave study and will establish an historical baseline that scientists can use in the future.
Establishing and maintaining coastal monitoring stations is not cheap. Currently the network is represented only in Kodiak and Seward, but plans for expansion into Western Alaska will unfold over the next four months. The network’s Howard Ferren says that they’re currently developing a curriculum that will teach every day people how to use handheld instruments to monitor the coast near their community.
— (Network Expansion 1 :38 "If you can train people who have vested interest in what’s going on in their coastal areas, you can train them about coastal processes from determining wave height and long shore drift and beach sediment composition and how to take wind gust and wind speed measurements, all of these types of parameters, data points and go online and log them in to the database that is publicly available, then you can deploy a much larger number of systems.")
The observers will make up the Alaska Corp of Coastal Observers; a group that Ferren says embodies a movement that is taking off around the nation: citizen science. While it may be difficult to base a peer-reviewed scientific journal article on citizen science, Ferren says it’s not impossible.
— (Network Expansion 2 :27 "It can be done but you certainly have to have a rigorous training program and rigorous methodology and very strict use of the data, otherwise it’s just not going to pass scientific muster. But a lot of general residents have an awfully lot of valuable information to contribute to science.")
And that information is also valuable to communities experiencing coastal erosion. Ferren says that the development of the corp is counter to what scientists did for many years.
— (Network Expansion 3 :38 "It’s just sad that historically local residents- those that don’t have the scientific background- weren’t really invited to participate, but when you look at traditional and local knowledge from people who’ve resided in an area for in some cases thousands of years and have survived and you disregard the information you’re really doing that with great disrespect for the knowledge that people have about their local environment.")
Ferren says that the combination of traditional knowledge with new technology will greatly expand what we know about Alaska’s coasts. The corp will work in cooperation with monitoring stations that will be established in uninhabited areas. The data will be stored online and available to the public.