Climate change is most pronounced in the Arctic with:

  • greater temperature increases than the rest of the planet;
  • more intense storm activity; and
  • significant ice, snow, and permafrost melt.

Native villages in Alaska are particularly vulnerable with their subsistence cultures closely attuned to the stability of regional biophysical conditions.  We can all learn about climate change from the people in this region as they struggle to adapt and preserve their culture.  This website serves as a video library of two native villages in Alaska on the front line of climate change - Savoonga and Shaktoolik - documenting the climate change impacts they are witnessing, describing their key vulnerabilities, and providing an in-depth study of storms and changing wind patterns.


Between 2010 and 2012 we documented the climate change impacts being witnessed by residents of Savoonga and Shaktoolik (please see below).  Their local and traditional ecological knowledge of environmental change in the Bering Strait Region is rich, vast, and nuanced in its specificity to their location and region.As published in Ignatowski and Rosales (2014), we documented the following environmental changes related to climate change in a manner that they understand the change:




Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.  Filmmaker Maili Scott documents the main impacts of climate change affecting the country and poses a weighty ethical question: who is responsible to pay the costs of far off impacts of climate change?

A Culture on the Edge

In her debut film, Laura St. Andrews highlights the importance of hunting to the people of Savoonga by showcasing scenes of the natural landscape and interviews with village hunters.  The film shows how the subsistence village draws its identity from the surrounding land.

Aksik: a documentary film

This film by Jonathan Ignatowski considers the climatic changes in Savoonga by exploring its impact on maintaining the village’s subsistence food culture.

Kiribati: Beyond Adaptation

In her debut film, Joanna Patouris constructs a case for legal action in Kiribati, a small island county in the South Pacific.  Patouris presents the imminent danger in Kiribati as seas rise and its people loose their ability to sustain themselves.


The village of Shaktoolik is threatened by the increasingly severe fall storms associated with a warmer Arctic.  Filmmaker Mera Kenney captures this perilous situation and highlights the village's need for a road to "somewhere safe.”

Stay and Defend

In his first film, David Smith focuses on the efforts by villagers in Shaktoolik to construct a berm in front of the village to defend against increasingly dangerous storms.

Project Team

  • Class of 2017
    I will be researching grass lay on Saint Lawrence Island to better understand the changing winds patterns affecting the island...
  • Class of 2017
    I traveled to Alaska to meet with village elders and learn more about the meaning of the names and if they relate to storm events. 
  • Class of 2016
    I traveled to Shaktoolik to film the village’s efforts to guard the village from storms. It was an entirely new experience for me...
  • Class of 2015
    Working on AKSIK opened my eyes to the effects of climate change on small communities that lead a subsistence lifestyle.
  • Class of 2014
    I Researched the relocation efforts of indigenous Alaskan communities and US government hindrances and policies.
  • Class of 2014
    In my senior year I participated in a research seminar on climate change adaptation and produced a documentary film....
  • Class of 2012
    I worked on Silageetuk - a short advocacy film on Shaktoolik and the perils of storm surges from climate change....
  • Class of 2012
    I was part of the first group to go up to Shaktoolik and Savoonga where we conducted interviews in both communities...
  • Class of 2012
    I traveled to Shaktoolik and Savoonga to survey members about the impacts climate change has had on their subsistence lifestyle...

  • Associate Professor
    Environmental Studies
    St. Lawrence University