One man in Shishmaref is using a drone to keep track of sea ice conditions this winter. He is using social media to share the footage he collects in an effort to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on Alaska’s Northwest coast.


Last fall, Dennis Davis bought a drone.


“One of the reasons why I got it was in the spring time, once everybody starts getting ready to go out ugruk hunting, you can’t really see what the ice is going to be like out there,” he said.


He said sea ice conditions have become less reliable and weather more unpredictable for his fellow seal and walrus hunters in recent years, so footage he collects with the drone “is like insurance.”


“I can shoot either a video or I can shoot still pictures and blow them up and look at the ice, that way I can find a better trail for everybody to go on,” he said.


Davis can legally fly his drone as high as 400 feet. He can also capture images from more than a mile away. He shares it all through accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He said the first photo he posted last November reached more than 14,000 people, but since then the attention has dwindled.


“At least it’s getting out there and people are recognizing and seeing what we are going through,” he said.


Davis said he’ll continue to post his footage. He wants to stoke a bigger conversation about winter storms and coastal erosion in Western Alaska.


“I feel it’s a personal mission of mine,” he said.


This summer, he plans to travel more than 100 miles of coastline with his drone.


“From Cape Espenberg all the way down past [Shishmaref], just to see what the coastal erosion is up to – how bad it is,” he said.


Davis has considered using his photos and video to start a fundraising effort for the residents of Shishmaref and other villages seriously threatened by climate change, but he hasn’t quite figured out how.


This story originates from KNOM Radio Mission and was published with permission.


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