Going to the Source to Understand Ocean Energy Issues in Alaska

February 3, 2017

Megan Nasgovitz is a student in the Master of Environmental Management program at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Toward the end of her Bass Connections project, History and Future of Ocean Energy, she applied for follow-on research funds to assess the economic, environmental and political implications of Shell’s decision to suspend drilling in Alaska. Mentored by Douglas Nowacek and Lori Bennear, Megan traveled to Alaska and attended the 2016 Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland.

Follow-on research funds are available to undergraduate and graduate students who have completed (or are completing) a Bass Connections project team and propose to continue some aspect of the team’s work through a faculty-mentored research experience. Proposals are due March 10.


Setting out on my Bass Connections follow-on research this summer, my two main goals were to investigate the implications from a local-to-global perspective of Shell’s decision to cease drilling and to understand what role Alaskan corporations and indigenous people play in shaping international environmental law in the Arctic, particularly looking at ocean energy and balancing the uses of shared ocean resources.

To achieve this, I started off in Anchorage where I spoke to stakeholders such as Alaskan Native Policy Center and the Alaskan Center for the Environment. I also attended local events, viewed museum exhibits and engaged with Alaskan citizens to understand the impacts of Shell’s departure and the various groups involved in environmental policy in Alaska.

Following this, I went to Barrow to engage in primary research, speaking with members of the local indigenous community and groups such as the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope-Natural Resources division. Meeting with the people of Barrow and native organizations allowed me to understand how environmental issues are framed and addressed in the community, who gets involved (as there are an endless amount of representation organizations, all with different missions) and the scale of policy that members of the community most frequently engage in.

Our Land for Youth

While there, I participated in as many community activities as possible, including an Our Land for Youth clean-up. This was an incredible experience that would not have been possible without the generous support of Bass Connections funding as it is so expensive to get to the US Arctic.

Since returning, I have applied and received funding through the Center for International Studies to start an Arctic Boundaries Working Group at Duke to continue to explore Arctic issues and to bring people from the wider Duke community together to collaborate on multidisciplinary projects related to Arctic environments.

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Image courtesy of Our Land Clean-up Initiative