Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research


The Russian–American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA), a joint U.S.–Russia research program in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, focuses on sampling and instrument deployment in both U.S. and Russian territorial waters and operates under the auspices of two Memoranda of Understanding between NOAA and, respectively, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Roshydromet. The RUSALCA objectives are to support NOAA's Climate Observation and Analysis Program and the Russian interagency Federal Target Program "World Ocean." It also provides some of the Arctic components of international and national climate observing systems including Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), and Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). RUSALCA has also contributed to the U.S. interagency Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Program, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and the Census of Marine Life (CoML).

The RUSALCA program is focused on gathering long-term observations towards understanding the causes and consequences of the reduction in sea ice cover in the northern Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Models suggest that the expected changes in sea ice and albedo in this area will translate to significant alterations in water column structure and flow and in associated ecosystems. The program began in summer 2004 with a multi-disciplinary cruise on the R/V Khromov, a Russian ice-strengthened research ship, to investigate water column physics, nutrient chemistry, and pelagic and benthic biology. A second multi-disciplinary cruise was conducted in 2009, and a third in 2012. Smaller cruises focused on the physics in the Bering Strait region have been conducted in other years, and oceanographic moorings have been deployed, recovered and redeployed on a regular basis.

Five competitively selected RUSALCA projects have been funded through CIFAR since 2008: "A long-term census of Arctic zooplankton communities" (Russell Hopcroft, PI); "Arctic food web structure and epibenthic communities in a climate change context" (Katrin Iken and Bodil Bluhm, PIs); "Fish ecology and oceanography" (Brenda Norcross, PI); "The Pacific Gateway to the Arctic—Quantifying and understanding Bering Strait oceanic fluxes" (Thomas Weingartner and Terry Whitledge, PIs); and "Global change in the Arctic: Interactions of productivity and nutrient processes in the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas" (Terry Whitledge PI, Dean Stockwell Co-PI). Annual progress reports on these projects are in CIFAR's annual reports to NOAA. A final report covering June 2008 through July 2013 is also available.