The Unalaska Sea Ice Project

Project Overview

Historically, sea ice has never been observed in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Research in the last decade, however, has revealed sea ice-loving seals in zooarchaeological material from Unalaska Island. This project, led by Principal Investigator Catherine West in collaboration with researchers from Western Washington University and the University of Alabama, seeks to understand whether the presence of these animals represents a dramatic landscape change (i.e. the presence of sea ice) or a behavioral change among the animals. The team will address this question using a combination of zooarchaeological analysis, paleoenvironmental reconstruction via stable isotope analysis of animal bone and shell, toolkit analysis, and contemporary oceanographic analysis. Analysis focuses on well-preserved faunal deposits from three previously excavated sites housed at the Museum of the Aleutians, dating from 4700 BP to 350 BP: Margaret Bay (UNL-048), Amaknak Bridge (UNL-050), and Amaknak Spit (UNL-055).

This project has been featured by NSF Science 360 NewsBU Research, the Aleutian Islands Working Group and the Stable Isotope Working Group of ICAZ, and is funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. For more information on this project, contact Professor Catherine West.

Research Collaborators

Catherine F. West, Boston University
Michael Etnier, Western Washington University
Caroline Funk, University of Buffalo
Megan Partlow, Central Washington University
Christine Bassett, University of Alabama
Fred Andrus, University of Alabama
Nora Foster, NRF Taxonomic Services
Adam Freeburg, National Park Service and University of Washington
Peter Boveng, National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Related Publications

Knecht, Richard A., and Richard S. Davis. 2008. “The Amaknak Bridge Site: Cultural Change and the Neoglacial in the Eastern Aleutians.” Arctic Anthropology 45 (1): 61–78. doi:10.1353/arc.0.0003.

Media Gallery








Bones found on the beach 2_2