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Arctic Cultural Cartography

Study of Thaw Lake Drainage

Some research that was inspired by our interviews with the Iñupiaq elders:

Indigenous knowledge was critical in a recent study of thaw lake drainage over the past 50 years on the ACP. Interviews with elders validated timing of landscape changes and provided insight into landscape processes. In particular, their knowledge of the human use of the landscape indicated that 37% of the lakes on the Barrow peninsula that drained between 1949 and 2002 were affected by human activities that triggered thermokarst and erosion processes. The activities included deliberate drainage in support of natural gas development and inadvertent damage due to repeated use of tracked vehicles in some areas. Click here to access this article:


Mosaic of seven Landsat-7 ETM+ scenes (bands 543 RGB) showing the study area. Symbols represent lakes that drained over the ~25-year period, along with inferred or suspected cause.

Changes in Travel of the North Slope

A study of changes in travel and overland travel routes of the North Slope

During the course of interviews with Iñupiat elders from Barrow, Atqasuk, and Wainwright, informants repeatedly called attention to their present and past travel routes for both summer and winter travel. We consequently began to examine this information to determine how and why inland travel routes have changed, and to assess the impact of routes on the landscape
The traditional travel routes of the Iñupiaq people are an important and useful area of study for cultural geographers and anthropologists. Ethnographic studies have recognized so-called “traveling landscapes” as a rich repository of information about hunting and fishing resources, trading relations and kinship ties, and survival mechanisms.

Figure 1. Modern summer travel routes A (dotted line) & B (solid line). Route information is superimposed on a 2002 Landsat 7+ satellite image within a GIS. Labels refer to place names and sites discussed in text.
Figure 1
Figure 2. Traditional summer travel routes digitized from Spencer (1959)