Witness the Arctic

Volume 13
Number 4
1 March 2010

Feature Article

State of the Arctic 2010 Website
The State of the Arctic Conference, to be held 16–19 March 2010 in Miami, Florida, will be a major milestone for arctic science, providing an international forum to review current knowledge of the arctic system in a time of rapid environmental change and point to future research, resource management, and policy directions. Participants will include a diverse and interdisciplinary group of scientists, students, agency personnel, policy makers, stakeholders, northern representatives, and media. Over 200 talks and two poster sessions will cover all aspects of arctic change, including sea ice,...

Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)

"Understanding Arctic Change" Task Force Members
Over the past few years, the SEARCH (Study of Environmental Arctic Change) and ARCSS (Arctic System Science Program) communities have discussed the increasing need for improved integration and coordination between the two programs and their respective planning processes. Recently, the SEARCH Science Steering Committee (SSC) and ARCSS Committee agreed to move forward with a joint process to align efforts for more efficient scientific planning and implementation and to explore scientific synergies through a SEARCH-ARCSS task force on "understanding arctic change." The Understanding Arctic...
The Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) Sea Ice Outlook (SIO) is an international effort to provide a community-wide summary of the expected September arctic sea ice minimum at pan-arctic and regional scales. Several activities have been completed or are underway to summarize the 2009 season and prepare for the 2010 Outlook. The 2009 Sea Ice Outlook Summary Reports, which are available online ( www.arcus.org/search-program/seaiceoutlook/2009/summary ), provide a retrospective review of the 2009 Outlook effort and results. The summary reports, based on statements from nearly 20...
The interagency Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) is organizing the first phase of a rapid planning process to provide guidance to NSF and other governmental agencies, the scientific community, and others engaged in arctic environmental observations on how to best achieve a well-designed, effective, and robust arctic observing system. With support from the NSF Office of Polar Programs, this planning effort is led by a recently formed Arctic Observing Network (AON) Design and Implementation (ADI) Task Force. Composed of 13 researchers with observing-system expertise both within and...

Arctic Natural Sciences Program

Geophysical Institute Permafrost Lab (GIPL) model
Permafrost thaw, a result of ongoing high latitude warming, has a number of consequences ranging from infrastructure damage to accelerated release of carbon and methane to the atmosphere. Despite the important role of permafrost in the geological, ecological, engineering, and climate change sciences, direct interaction between the dispersed permafrost community and the climate modeling community is limited.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Toolik Field Station elevation drawing.
Toolik Field Station (TFS), located on Alaska's north slope and administered by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has operated year-round since 2006. Plans are underway for a new year-round-capable kitchen and dining facility, which will increase the "winter-over" capacity of the station, and scientific services have been expanded to include an environmental data center. TFS management is also in the process of developing a new "master plan", which will direct further station development over the next ten years. Recent Upgrades and Plans for Future...

U.S. Arctic Research Commission

The U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) recently appointed a new deputy director and reopened their Anchorage office. The commission's biennial Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research is also in the final stages of review. Cheryl Rosa was appointed as USARC deputy director in November 2009. She will also serve as director of the commission's Alaska office in Anchorage. During this appointment, which may last for up to four years, Rosa will work with the seven presidentially appointed USARC commissioners to strengthen arctic research and ties between the commission and the State...

International News

The Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) initiative has now begun a second phase, and the Arctic Council (AC) together with the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the World Meteorological Organization have formed a steering group (SAON SG) to lead its development. Formed in response to the AC's 2006 Salekhard Declaration, SAON is aimed at advancing multinational engagement in developing sustained and coordinated pan-arctic observing and data sharing systems that serve societal needs, particularly related to environmental, social, economic, and cultural issues. In the...
The 12th Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) will be held in Nuuk, Greenland, on 15−19 April 2010. The purpose of the summit, which is organized by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and other scientific organizations, is to provide opportunities for international coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas of arctic science and to combine science and management meetings. The event features annual meetings of arctic organizations and presentations on arctic research being undertaken by the host country.

A Note From the ARCUS Executive Director

After 12 years of service, Alison York has left ARCUS for a position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR). Alison served as Witness the Arctic editor since 1998, investigating a wide range of arctic research issues and initiatives and working closely with the research community. While employing her breadth of scientific expertise, Alison played a critical role in newsletter content and development during her tenure. In December 2009, Alison accepted a position with UAF's CANHR, which, along with eight other institutions, is building and...

Member Insert

Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College.
Dartmouth College has a long tradition of research and teaching in northern and polar studies. Originally founded in 1769 for the education of Native Americans, Dartmouth is the ninth oldest college in the U.S. Enrollment is approximately 1,800 graduate and 4,100 undergraduate students and includes the highest percentage of Native American students of any Ivy League institution. The college has 19 graduate programs in the arts and sciences, Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering, and Tuck School of Business, and has had a long collaborative relationship with the U.S. Army Cold...
Photo by Meredith Kelly.
In the Department of Earth Sciences ( http://earthsciences.dartmouth.edu/ ), research and teaching emphasize watershed processes, environmental geochemistry, glaciology, geomicrobiology, structural geology and geophysics, sedimentology, paleontology, and remote sensing. A number of faculty specialize in low temperature geochemistry, stable and radiogenic isotopes, hydrology, glacial dynamics, geomorphology, soils, and climate. With funding from the NSF Arctic Natural Sciences Program, Meredith Kelly examines past extents of ice sheets and mountain glaciers to better understand both recent and...
Collecting soils on a south-facing slope in West Greenland.
The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program ( http://www.dartmouth.edu/~biology/eeb/index.html ) encompasses all areas of ecology, evolutionary biology, and related disciplines. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NSF, and others, Matthew Ayres studies the causes of spatiotemporal patterns in the abundance of forest insects and pathogens. One of his interests is the impact of climate change on biotic disturbance regimes. In August 2009, Ayres and graduate student Lauren Culler investigated entomofauna and aquatic habitats near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. They installed...
The three main research areas at the Thayer School of Engineering ( http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/ ) are engineering in medicine, energy technologies, and complex systems. Thayer faculty work on many aspects of ice physics and engineering. Thayer supports advanced instrumentation to characterize the microstructure and mechanical and electrical properties of ice and icy materials, including scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy and electron backscatter diffraction capabilities, confocal Raman spectroscopy, and micro-computed X-ray tomography.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy has a strong program in theoretical and experimental space physics ( http://www.dartmouth.edu/~physics/research/space.physics.html ). Faculty members Jim LaBelle, Kristina Lynch, and Robyn Millan have a long history of rocket and balloon studies of the solar wind and its interactions with the Earth's magnetosphere. In the Arctic, these interactions appear as the aurora borealis or "northern lights." Instrument packages have been sent into the upper atmosphere from many northern locations including Alaska, Sweden, and Canada. Similar work has also been...
Undergraduate Elizabeth Parker
Part of Dartmouth's commitment to undergraduate education includes getting students involved in the research process early on—the Institute of Arctic Studies awards Stefansson Fellowships to undergraduate students whose research requires travel to arctic locations. Supported projects span the academic spectrum. Undergraduate Elizabeth Parker received a Stefansson Fellowship award in 2009 to support her research on capelin, a type of smelt that is an important food source for birds and whales. She spent the summer working at NOAA's Auke Creek Research Station in Juneau, Alaska. Photo courtesy...
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879–1962), a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist.
The Dartmouth College Library ( http://library.dartmouth.edu/ ) houses rare research collections in polar studies that range from the latest scientific journal articles to historical photographs and manuscripts in the Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration in the Rauner Special Collections Library. Much of Dartmouth's northern material was the result of the remarkable period of northern activity at the college in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as support for Canadian and arctic endeavors on the part of then-president John Sloan Dickey. < div class="content-right" style="width:300px;">
The University of the Arctic's Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy (IACP; http://iacp.dartmouth.edu/ ), a collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was established in 2008 and is located at the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth. The mission of IACP is to explore critical policy issues facing citizens of the circumpolar North. In December 2008, IACP held a three-day conference on the subject of arctic climate change and security policy. The meeting, attended by scientists, policymakers, and representatives from indigenous communities, resulted in a...
In 2008, Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding was awarded a five-year NSF Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant to develop a Ph.D. program in polar environmental change ( www.dartmouth.edu/~igert/ ). The U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) is a collaborator on the project. The program integrates departmental graduate requirements in earth sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology, and engineering with an interdisciplinary framework for studying polar environmental change. While science-based, the...


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 8,800 subscribers.



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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 8,800 subscribers.

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ARCUS is a nonprofit organization consisting of institutions organized and operated for educational, professional, or scientific purposes. Established by its member institutions in 1988 with the primary mission of strengthening arctic research, ARCUS activities are funded through cooperative agreements with NSF and the National Park Service, grants from NSF, a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and membership dues.

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Contributors: M. Abels, V. Alexander, B. Barnes, M. Bret-Harte, K. Creek, H. Eicken, J. Farrell, S. Fox, L. McDavid, J. Overland, V. Rachold, O. Rogne, V. Romanovsky, C. Rosa, J. Walsh, H. Wiggins.