New film explores how Arctic ecosystems are affected by climate change

UAF scientist Chien-Lu Ping works with students on his Arctic soils field tour in 2015. (Texas Tech Public Media photo)

A new documentary film looks at how climate change is affecting Arctic ecosystems.

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Between Earth and Sky-Climate Change on the Last Frontier was created by scientists.

Executive producer David Weindorf is a dean at Texas Tech. He said bringing students to the edge of ANWR to examine arctic soils was life changing for them because the remote arctic places was no longer an abstract place on a map.

“They got to see how the pipeline and mining exploration are impacting the land surface in Alaska so I started bringing students up every year,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said Arctic soils are rich and deep with organic material, something that isn’t seen in Texas. The students studied the differences between the stunted growth of black spruce on the northern side of the slope where permafrost is prevalent.

“Whereas on the south facing slopes you typically don’t have permafrost, there’s more solar radiation there, keeps things warmer so seeing that kind of dichotomy, going around the slope, one side to the other, you can see tremendous differences in the soil profiles in Alaska, it was just dramatic to see that,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said the scientific changes he’s observed in the arctic over the last decade are striking and the interviews he conducted with Alaska Natives and other Alaskans back up what the science reveals.

“We felt like that was a really important piece of the film, to go to Kotzebue and Shishmaref and Nome and those areas that are really on the front lines of these changes, and hear from those people and how that science is impacting and their everyday lives,” Weindorf said.

Weindorf said he wants the film to be educational for people in the Lower 48, saying the film has no other agenda than scientists documenting the truth about a changing climate.

“To let them know, ‘Hey. You’ve never been to Alaska. You’ve never been to the Toolik research station, up on the North Slope. You haven’t seen the kind of things that we’ve seen. But we can tell you things are really accelerating as far as changes that are going on up there,'” Weindorf said. “These aren’t just abstract things that we might hear about in the news. This is impacting people’s lives.”

Between Earth and Sky-Climate Change on the Last Frontier will show on Sept. 29 at the Bear Tooth Theater in Anchorage and Sept. 30 in Palmer.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori