Witness the Arctic

Volume 25
Number 2
22 November 2021

Science News

Northern Farmers and UAF Researchers Team up to Sustainably Manage Permafrost-Agroecosystems

A new transdisciplinary project, funded by NSF's NNA program, is studying the interactions and feedbacks within permafrost-agroecosystems by co-producing knowledge with Alaskan and Siberian farmers. The project, Permafrost Grown, is focusing on in-the-ground farming to directly assess these interactions and feedbacks and plans to study several farm sites near Fairbanks, Alaska , and one in Bethel, Alaska, that either grow vegetables, peonies, and/or raise livestock. The project team is also interested in the legacy impacts of land cleared 100 to 300 years ago that was initially used for agriculture but has since been either abandoned or converted to a different land use. They are collaborating with the Melnikov Permafrost Institute based in Yakutsk, Russia, to conduct a knowledge exchange with Siberian farmers and researchers.

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Highlights from ARCUS’ Community and Citizen Science in the Far North Conference

The Community and Citizen Science in the Far North conference was held on 5—7 October 2021. Convened virtually, conference presentations and discussions addressed the myriad aspects of conducting community and citizen science research in the circumpolar north. The conference was conceived in response to the need to recognize, connect, and support a growing community of researchers, communities, and visitors that are interested in engaging in community and citizen science in some way. The primary goal of the conference was to provide an opportunity to share knowledge and increase networking among researchers, community members, and other practitioners of community and citizen science in the circumpolar north.

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ARCUS Member Highlight

University of Virginia’s New Arctic Research Center: Supporting Collaborative Research

ARCUS member institution, the University of Virginia (UVA), has recently formed the Arctic Research Center (UVAARC). This new platform for collaborative Arctic research at UVA builds on decades of Arctic-focused research, education, and outreach efforts that span environmental sciences, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, social sciences, data sciences, art, and music. UVAARC brings together undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faculty from four different schools across UVA, as well as a national and international network of colleagues and institutional collaborators.

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Arctic System Science Program

SIPN2 News

Recent Sea Ice Prediction Network–Phase 2 (SIPN2) activities in 2021 included two webinars,"Prospects for Improved Regional Predictions of Arctic Sea Ice" and "The Post-Season Review and Discussion of the 2021 Sea Ice Outlook (SIO)" and four monthly SIO reports. Three new items were added to 2021 SIO solicitations, including contributions of pan-Arctic sea-ice extent anomalies; contributions of sea-ice advance dates to the August report; and contributions to the new monthly report for September (based on May, June, July, and August data).

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National Science Foundation News

An Introduction to Polar Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation

Polar Cyberinfrastructure (CI) cuts across many disciplinary boundaries, facilitating and potentially transforming how Arctic knowledge is built. Polar CI is included in the main Arctic Research Opportunities solicitation from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs (OPP). Through this solicitation, the Polar CI program considers proposals that promote effective collaboration between polar and cyberinfrastructure researchers and aims to support proposals that provide significant benefit to the polar research community.

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NSF Awards Grants to Early-Career Polar Investigators

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs (OPP) has awarded $3.8 million to early-career scientists as part of the OPP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (PRF) Program. This is the first year of funding for the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program. The program encourages new investigators who have not previously worked in polar regions and/or innovative techniques that have not previously been applied to polar science into polar research. Additionally, the OPP-PRF aims to support beginning investigators with experiences that will establish them in positions of leadership in the scientific community.

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Science Education News

Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Undergraduates and Youth in Arctic STEM: Workshop Outcomes

The Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Undergraduates and Youth in Arctic STEM workshop was held from 13–15 April 2021. The goal of the workshop was to bring together rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth, federal agency representatives, researchers on Arctic STEM projects, Indigenous faculty and staff, those from the private sector, and rural Alaska community members to discuss the gaps, challenges, opportunities, and successful practices to increase and support the representation of rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth in STEM education and career pathways.

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From Svalbard to the Classroom—Adventures of a PolarTREC Alum

Middle school science teacher, and PolarTREC alum, Mark Goldner shares his experiences as part of field research team studying the effects of climate change on the meltwater plumes of glacier systems in Kongsfjord, Svalbard. Drawing on his first-hand accounts, he makes topics like topics like climate change and geology come alive for his students. Goldner thinks this has enormous intangible results in terms of students' heightened enthusiasm for, and interest in, science.

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International News

Building Bridges between Research and Community

During 2021, an area as big as Sweden and Norway combined melted from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Researchers worldwide visit Greenland to study these extreme weather conditions and socioeconomic effects. Meanwhile, politicians struggle to navigate an ocean of information, while locals try to adapt new realities, with everyone strongly depending on each other to adapt. The International Arctic Hub, in Nuuk Greenland, creates a bridge between between science and the community and between knowledge and action.

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U.S. Arctic Research Commission

President Biden Appoints New USARC Chair and Commissioners

On 24 September 2021, President Biden appointed five new commissioners to the US Arctic Research Commission and designated a new chair. These appointments coincide with other Arctic-related actions announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The new commissioners include Elizabeth Qaulluq Cravalho of Kotzebue, Alaska; Mark Myers of Anchorage, Alaska; Jacqueline Richter-Menge of Lyme, New Hampshire; Deborah Vo of Anchorage; and the newly designated chair is Alaskan, Michael Sfraga,

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Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

Diverse Collaborators Co-Produce Understanding of Arctic Change

The NSF Office of Polar Programs recently funded the University of Alaska Fairbanks and six other institutions to synthesize what is known about the changing Arctic environment and its consequences. Over the next five years, the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) will bring together scientific, Indigenous, and decision-making experts to more fully understand environmental change in the Arctic. Results will be made available to decision-makers in local communities, multiple levels of government, and the private sector.

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Interagency News

Global Climate-Fragility Risks Associated with Arctic Change

The "Climate-Fragility Risk Brief: The Arctic" is a recent product of the Wilson Center's Polar Institute in collaboration with the Berlin-based think tank, adelphi. The risk brief identifies climate change as one of several "actorless threats," which will increasingly shape the global threat to the environment and and create geopolitical and human security risks. The brief includes several entry-points for action from the policy community, including the need for urgent global action to catalyze emissions reduction efforts and increase carbon sequestration, with an emphasis on nature-based solutions that also seek to support biodiversity and Indigenous communities.

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Data Management

New Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator Joins the Arctic Data Center Team

Natasha Haycock-Chavez is the new Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator at the Arctic Data Center. Her background includes study that specialized in Indigenous-led conservation and she observes that Indigenous research methodologies and self-determination can be integrated into conservation planning, as well Arctic research in general. She looks forward to integrating these lessons into her new role at the Arctic Data Center.

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Arctic Social Sciences Program

Tracking the Spatiotemporal Dynamics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Arctic

An interdisciplinary team on the NSF RAPID funded project, Tracking the Spatiotemporal Dynamics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Arctic Project, has developed and deployed a real-time web-based COVID-19 data hub to track the spatiotemporal dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Arctic. The team is collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on the spatial and temporal dynamics of the COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Arctic from day-one of the pandemic, as well as vaccination in Arctic regions. The datasets and analyses of spatiotemporal trends at the subregional level are made available to stakeholders. The team is also developing geovisualization tools and analyzing datasets to address urgent questions related to the spread and geography of COVID-19 in the Arctic.

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Witness the Arctic provides information on current Arctic research efforts and findings, significant research initiatives, national policy affecting Arctic research, international activities, and profiles of institutions with major Arctic research efforts. Witness serves an audience of Arctic scientists, educators, agency personnel, and policy makers. Witness was published biannually in hardcopy from 1995-2008 (archives are available below); starting in early 2009 the issues have been published online. Witness has over 8,700 subscribers.



With the Spring 2009 issue, ARCUS changed the format of Witness the Arctic. To provide more frequent updates and reduce printing and mailing costs and associated environmental impacts, the newsletter is now distributed online in three or four shorter issues per year, depending on newsworthy events.


If you have a question or an idea for a Witness article, contact Betsy Turner-Bogren at betsy@arcus.org.

Witness Community Highlights

Witness Community Highlights is an online publication launched in May 2017 to complement the regular publications of Witness the Arctic. It was developed in response to community feedback identifying the need for a monthly publication to highlight 1–2 Arctic research efforts and other timely items of interest to our readers. Community Highlights is distributed monthly via our Witness the Arctic mailing list of over 8,700 subscribers.

Witness Community Highlights

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Executive Director: Helen Wiggins

Editors: Betsy Turner-Bogren and Lisa Sheffield Guy

Contributors: A. E. Copenhaver, H. Epstein, G. Gannon, M. Goldner, N. Haycock-Chavez, B. M. Jones, M. Jull, M. Kanevskiy, B. P. Kelly, G. W. Kling, M. Maddox, A. N. Petro, A. Pope, C. Rosa, D. Russell, J. Russell, T. Schwoerer, A-S. Skjerveda, I. Sutton, A. Taylor, B. Turner-Bogren, J. Warburton, M. K. Ward Jones

Witness the Arctic is published by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS), a nonprofit organization that advances Arctic research and education. Witness the Arctic is funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation (OPP-1927894). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.