The central theme of the coastal resilience program is the vulnerability of local marine ecosystems and coastal resources to change or to become altered, how this change impacts the ability of people, place, and economy, and what we can do to deal with negative impacts to the environment and our social systems. In short, we are concerned how oceanic change impacts who we are, who we will be as a community, and what we will do about it. Our projects can be grouped into 3 major categories:

  1. Environmental education and youth workforce development
  2. Scientific surveys, monitoring, and collaborative research
  3. Coastal resource planning and management and tribal capacity building


  • Build capacity and equity for Alaska Natives in marine resource management, protection, conservation, and development
  • Protect and conserve coastal resources and ecosystems
  • Participate in local, state, and federal resources management and contribute to tribal sovereignty and tribal co-management
  • Use pro-active meaningful science to understand how global climate change threatens local coastal ecosystems, and contribute to environmental stewardship

Active Projects

Black Seaweed:

Black Seaweed (Pyropia abbotiae, Tlingit: Laak’ásk) is an important coastal food that is locally gathered by tribal citizens. Our management report documents of 1) the importance of the resource as a cultural keystone species, and traditional knowledge associated with the species, 2) the risks of climate change to the species and linked social-cultural system, and 3) management recommendations for future action regarding black seaweed. This project led to a publication in the Routledge Handbook of Seascapes (2022). Follow up work on black seaweed harvesting site temperature monitoring and participation in regional collaboration is ongoing.

Marine Invasive Species:

Marine invasive species are non-native species that have the potential to do harm. Marine invasive species are one of the greatest threats to marine and coastal biodiversity worldwide, second only to habitat loss. In 2021, we identified a marine invasive species (Botrylloides violaceus) in the Hoonah Harbor. Invasive species have the potential to cause economic and environmental harm. HIA is monitoring the harbor in collaboration with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center PlateWatch Program.

Biodiversity Sampling using E-DNA

We are working in collaboration with the National Park Service and CaleDNA to perform E-DNA water sampling at Gartina Estuary and Icy Strait Point. The E-DNA method tests for trace genetic material of all organisms in the water. The data we collect will be sent to a laboratory and will tell us what forms of life are present in our waters, across the 5 kingdoms of life (Plants, Animals, Fungi, Monera, and Protists). By understanding what lifeforms are in our waters, we can better understand topics such as biodiversity, marine invasive species, endangered species, and other topics, such as the presence of Sea Otters in Port Frederick. This will contribute to many types of marine resource planning, such as the presence of harmful algal blooms that create shellfish toxicity.

Scientific Diving and SCUBA Training

NAUI Instructor Sean Williams offers low-cost SCUBA diving training services to HIA Staff members and local community members. This project helps build the capacity of locals in marine science, and reinforces marine conservation ethics. Dive training also helps build a local volunteer workforce for scientific diving and provides economic development opportunities.

University of Alaska Southeast STEM Dual Enrollment in Hoonah City Schools

The Coastal Resilience program oversees accredited high school science dual enrollment credit opportunities between the University of Alaska Southeast, the Hoonah City School district, and other partners. This project builds scientific capacity in the school and can be taken by students remotely on an iPad. This project was especially important to the community during COVID-19, in which remote learning helped address a deficit of teachers and course offerings. The dual enrollment courses are designed to be hands-on and engaging and connect to summer environmental internship opportunities with the Tribe and local partners such as the United States Forest Service through the Hoonah Native Forest Project. In the past, we have worked with grades 6-8 science courses through the American Indian Higher Education Council US Americorps VISTA program. See our Youth Engagement page for more information on our efforts to support scientific and cultural education in Hoonah.

Endangered Species Surveys and Monitoring – Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea star)

The Sunflower Sea Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is an Endangered Species Act candidate species and is listed as critically-endangered by the IUCN Red List. This starfish is a keystone benthic predator, meaning that it has mutually beneficial influences on other species, and the loss of which would be much worse than losing a single species. Hoonah seems to still have a strong population of adults that persisted through the great die off caused by sea star wasting syndrome, although the species has been referred to by scientists as ‘functionally extinct’ due to declines over the vast majority of its range. HIA provides data to the University of California Santa Cruz Multi-Agency Rocky Inter-Tidal Network (MARINe).

Icy Strait Advisory Committee

The Icy Strait Advisory Committee (ISAC) is a local fish and game advisory committee authorized by 5 AAC 96.050 to develop, evaluate, and comment on regulatory proposals for the management of fish and fish habitat in the Icy Strait. ISAC also provides a local forum for the collection and expression of opinions and recommendations on matters related to fish and wildlife resources, in which HIA and other organizations can take part. Proposals are submitted to the Alaska Board of Fish (BoF), which has the regulatory power to establish open and closed seasons and areas for taking fish; setting quotas, bag limits, harvest levels and limitations, and establishing means and methods for taking fish. The Coastal Resilience Program coordinated and assisted with reactivation of the committee in 2021, which was inactive for 6 years. HIA staff attend and support ISAC meetings and provide scientific and community input and capacity to the meetings. We are developing proposals based on community knowledge and are available to assist you with developing your proposal.

Potential Projects

Due to funding limitations, the following projects have been proposed but have not been fulfilled.

Public Engagement, Social Science, and Fisheries Science to Identify Local Fisheries Management Goals for Dungeness Crab Commercial Exclusion Zone

This project was developed to document community perspectives on historical changes in the amount and availability of Dungeness crab and other crab species in Port Frederick, historical changes to Hoonah’s nearshore environment and estuaries, and historical fish landings. This project would have documented and provided information to support fisheries management regulatory proposals to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Icy Strait Advisory Committee and the Alaska Board of Fish.

Community Engagement and Strategic Planning for Co-Management of marine resources, marine mammals and anadromous and marine fisheries Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

This project was developed to document community perspectives and desires for Tribally-led fisheries management and enhanced marine mammal management in the Icy Strait and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This project would have documented and provided information to the community that could be used to leverage increased community participation in natural resource management of public lands, similar to the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, but instead focusing on marine environments and marine resources.

Black Seaweed Vulnerability Assessment

This project was developed to increase scientific understanding of the environmental cues for black seaweed growth, including improving understanding of its location, amount, and timing. This project was also designed to increase tribal participation in mariculture planning and development.

Marine Debris Mapping and Removal

This project was developed to understand how much and the location of marine debris located in underwater areas adjacent to Hoonah, for future removal.

Past Projects

Coastal Ecology, Macro-algae Distribution and Abundance and Population Ecology

We used scientific SCUBA diving to assess the population ecology of nearshore road-accessible areas on Chichagof Island. We recorded the distribution and abundance of marine organisms on different depth profiles and across different substrates in order to determine community structure using a scientific methodology. This project helped determine the community structure of the nearshore environment, establish and map dive sites, and build scientific diving capacity at HIA.

Coastal Ecology, Sea Star Wasting Syndrome

The Coastal Resilience Program collaborated with researchers at Cornell University to sample genetic material in sea stars for indications of sea star wasting syndrome. We sampled pyloric caeca (genetic material) of starfish and preserved samples for genetic analysis. We identified the presence of sea star wasting disease at all sites on Chichagof Island. This project led to a publication available through the Ian Hewson Laboratory.

Successful Funding

2022 United States Forest Service Southeast Alaska Sustainable Strategy Initiative (USFS SASSi)

2021 Tribal Resilience Program in Ocean and Coastal Management and Planning

2021 Tribal Resilience Program in Adaptation Planning

2021 Tribal Resilience Program in Travel Support for Regional Ocean Planning

2020 Tribal Resilience Program in Ocean and Coastal Management and Planning

2018 Tribal Resilience Program in Ocean and Coastal Management and Planning

Other Associated Project

The Coastal Resilience Program has contributed to numerous other project and initiatives within the HIA Environmental Department, including:

  • Environmental Education & Youth Engagement: Alaska Youth Stewards Program (AYS) (formerly TRAYLS)
  • HIA Environmental Strategic Planning
  • The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership
  • Indian General Assistance Program & Southeast Alaska Tribal Oceanographic Research
  • The Tlingit and Haida Indigenous Guardians Program
  • The HIA US AmeriCorps VISTA program through American Indian Higher Education Consortium


The HIA Coastal Resilience Program was founded in 2018 by HIA-AIHEC US Americorps alumnus VISTA Sean Williams.