Conference shares science in Western Alaska

Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference and Forum

The annual Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference (WAISC) was held last month, hosted by Alaska Sea Grant and the UAF Bristol Bay Campus. The 14th installment drew online participation from around the region and state, with 43 presentations across five sessions: Education in Rural Communities; Sustainable Energy; Climate, Environment and Influences on Society; Natural Sciences in a Changing World; and Joining Arts, Sciences and Humanity in Rural Alaska.

More than 100 participants listened and engaged during the two-day event, which opened with a presentation from Kirk Johnson of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and AlexAnna Salmon, President of the Igiugig Village Council, on a regional repatriation project titled Return of the Ancestors. 

WAISC was started in 2008 by the late Dr. Todd Radenbaugh, professor of environmental science at the Bristol Bay Campus. Dr. Radenbaugh recognized the importance of interdisciplinary research in the region and saw the need for a forum to communicate that science. Since the first conference in Dillingham, WAISC has been hosted by several Western Alaska communities, including Nome and Unalaska, fostering collaboration and sharing work by researchers across disciplines.

Awards for presentations are given in three categories. This year’s award for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Science—for achievement in interdisciplinary science through contributions in research, teaching, and service in Western Alaska—was given to Aaron Poe of the Alaska Conservation Foundation for the presentation Whatever happened to Alaska’s Landscape Conservation Collaboratives or the “LCCs”? An update from the Northern Latitudes Partnerships.

The award for Leadership for Sustainable Communities—in recognition of initiatives that promote sustainable communities in Western Alaska—went to Eric Goddard of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus for Solar Energy: Practicality, Logistics and Training in Southwest Alaska.

The Todd Radenbaugh People’s Choice Award—for work that embodies the vision of WAISC, to promote science, innovation, and education in Western Alaska—was given to Art Nash and Jonathan Kamler of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for Efficient Wet Biomass Fuel Production Via Supercritical Water.

WAISC is expected to be held in person in Dillingham in 2023. Prospective presenters and attendees can contact Alaska Sea Grant to be added to the WAISC mailing list, keep track of announcements and view past conference information and schedules at the Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference website, and follow WAISC on Facebook.