The award was presented to Scott Leorna, Alaska, USA for his thesis “Strategies for enhanced communication among Central Arctic Caribou Herd (CACH) stakeholders to inform future caribou management”
Scott Leorna is a Graduate Wildlife Researcher with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Human Dimensions of Wildlife Lab. In 2017, they received support and participation from several large hunting guide services and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to test and inform development of a smartphone app people will use to record information on caribou in northern Alaska. In 2018, they will be expanding the program to the public.
The rapid decline of the Central Arctic Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Herd (CACH) has raised major concern for the sustainable consumptive use of this resource. The CACH peaked in 2010 at roughly 70,000 animals and has precipitously declined to a current population size of 22,000. The herd’s range is divided by the Dalton Highway which provides hunters access to the resource. The distribution of the CACH relative to the Dalton Highway greatly influences hunter’s ability to harvest these caribou. Caribou managers at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) disclosed that public users of the resource reported the herd was on a downward trajectory before population monitoring methods used by managers were able to detect this change. Leorna’s proposed research explores strategies for enhanced communication among CACH stakeholders to inform future caribou management. The overarching question guiding his research is: How can citizen science and stakeholder perceptions advance knowledge, two-way communication, and future management decisions pertaining to the CACH?
You can read the full summary of the research here (in English).