Melting Alaska permafrost is profoundly altering the lives of Native Peoples there, while their own knowledge of native plants could provide government researchers with key information regarding the extent of the problem. Climate change has already impacted some of the last Iñupiat practices to survive colonization. “Already every year, we’re wondering, ‘Is the ocean ice going to form? How much longer are we going to have it?’” Laureli Ivanoff told Time. USGS researchers, meanwhile, are conducting interviews in the Yukon River Basin to incorporate Indigenous knowledge of permafrost dynamics into predictions of future permafrost thaw with the goal of increasing Indigenous communities’ involvement in decisions that affect them.
“Indigenous knowledge is critical to informing how research is conducted, on what topics, and how the results can be used for Indigenous peoples’ own decisionmaking,” Carlo said. “This is especially important in the Arctic, which is the most rapidly changing region on Earth.” That rapid change is also front and center in Denali National Park where the park’s only road is now closed at its halfway point due to a mountain slope collapse triggered by thawing permafrost. (TIME; Research: E&E News; Denali: Reuters; Climate Signals background: Arctic amplification, Permafrost thaw)